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Luai returns in style as Panthers overpower Warriors

Big guns Jarome Luai and James Fisher-Harris returned in style as the Panthers outclassed the Warriors 46-12 at BlueBet Stadium on Friday night.

Luai was at his elusive best after four games out with a knee injury while Fisher-Harris ran for 181 metres in his return from a two-game suspension.

After the Warriors had stunned the home crowd in the third minute with a try to Reece Walsh set up by Tohu Harris and Dunamis Lui, the premiers kicked into gear with four tries in 20 minutes.

The first of those came in the 20th minute when the Panthers chose to run the ball on the last and Viliame Kikau delivered a delightful pass for left winger Taylan May to grab his 15th try of the season. Stephen Crichton's conversion made it 6-6.

Walsh shoots out of the blocks

Slick hands from Dylan Edwards and Crichton in the 28th minute opened the door for Brian To'o to score in the right corner and the premiers had the lead for the first time.

An escort penalty against Sean O'Sullivan seven minutes before the break gave the Warriors field position and after Walsh earned them six again with a deft grubber they had a shot at their second try from a Shaun Johnson kick but Viliami Vailea was unable to ground the ball.

May finishes a special Penrith try

To'o made it a double in the 37th minute after Edwards and Crichton again combined brilliantly on the right edge before O'Sullivan handled twice in a short side raid to cross for Penrith's fourth try.

The loss of Johnson to a calf injury at half-time made the task that much tougher for the Warriors and when Crichton crossed in the 46th minute the minor premiers had raced to a 28-6 lead. 

Two for To'o

O'Sullivan racked up his second try assist when he put Kikau into a yawning gap in the 54th minute before the Warriors pulled one back through Eliesa Katoa.

May made it a double with 14 minutes to play and the Panthers faithful were in party mode as they celebrated the ninth victory at BlueBet Stadium for the season.

With 10 minutes to play May looked to have made it a hat-trick but Kikau's tap-on was ruled to have travelled forward.

The Warriors refused to throw in the towel and created a couple more chances but it was the Panthers who had the final say when Isaah Yeo was awarded a penalty try in the 80th minute.

Crichton tip-toes through the defence

Match Snapshot

  • James Fisher-Harris exploded back into action for the Panthers after a two-week suspension, playing the entire first half and running for 127 metres.
  • Panthers winger Taylan May has scored 10 tries in nine games at BlueBet Stadium.
  • The Panthers have won 12 from 12 against teams sitting outside the top eight in 2022.
  • The Warriors missed 36 tackles in the first half to the Panthers' five.
  • Bunty Afoa tried hard all night for the Warriors, running for 109 metres in 52 minutes of game time. His fellow interchange forward Tom Ale came up with 13 runs for 122 metres.

To'o clicks into gear

  • After scoring nine tries in 16 games in his debut season in 2021, Warriors fullback Reece Walsh's early try was just his second for 2022.
  • Warriors hooker Freddy Lussick underwent a HIA during the half-time break which he passed.
  • Jarome Luai was in fine form in his first game back from a knee injury with one try assist, seven tackle breaks and 122 running metres.
  • Panthers winger Brian To'o racked up 209 running metres from 19 runs.
  • The Warriors forced five dropouts compared to one by the Panthers.

Play of the Game

With the half-time siren looming the Panthers snuck down a short side and conjured their fourth try in the space of 20 minutes to set up a 16-point lead. Halfback Sean O'Sullivan found a rampaging Viliame Kikau who stood like a colossus before offloading to Izack Tago. The centre moved it on to winger Taylan May who looked back inside found O'Sullivan backing up to score his second try of the season.

O'Sullivan scores on the shortest short side

What They Said

"I thought Jarome [Luai] was good, he certainly looked lively which was good. Sometimes those medial ligament injuries can take a while to get that sharpness back but he was sort of displaying that at training so that's why we were happy for him to play tonight... one defensive lapse for a try but I thought he was pretty good, he looked dangerous." - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary

Panthers: Round 24

"We had a tough week, players pulled out last minute and that made it a lot tougher but I thought the boys dug deep at times. It was disappointing to let in a couple of tries just before half-time and disappointing for the players at the end when we had a bit of ball and scored a consolation try but then they go down the other end and score. I thought there was some boys who put their hand up tonight against a very good team." - Warriors coach Stacey Jones

Warriors: Round 24

What's Next

The Panthers round out the regular season with a massive game against fellow contenders North Queensland in Townsville. When the sides met in Round 12 it was the Panthers proving too classy in a 22-0 shutout.

The Warriors go home to Mt Smart Stadium in Round 25 to face the Titans. A full house is assured as they look to finish a tough season on a high in front of their loyal fans.

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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