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Sam Tomkins celebrates his first-half try against the Panthers on Saturday.

While many are happy to point out the fact that the Warriors' late-season decline has aligned with the season-ending ankle injury to Shaun Johnson, coach Andrew McFadden refused to make any excuses for his team's 24-10 loss to the Panthers.

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In their third game without Johnson since his untimely injury against Manly in Round 20 the Warriors continued their steady decline from top eight calculations in a game with few highlights.

In saying all of this, McFadden was quick to point out that any team would struggle without their star players.

"We have to be better, but look, take key people out of every team and see how they go. It's not just Shaun. We're missing Thomas Leuluai who was our starting hooker, he was playing terrific before he was hurt," McFadden said.

"It's a big challenge now [to make the finals]. There's no doubt about it. We have our senior guys that are working hard and we have some young kids who are doing a fair job but they're 23 rounds into the NRL for the first time so it's tough for them."


While their spine in the post-Johnson team has struggled for fluency, there were positive signs from the likes of Chad Townsend and Sam Tomkins ahead of their clash with North Queensland next weekend, with Tomkins scoring his first try of the year.

"Sam's busy. He's trying hard. We're just struggling to give him the opportunity and the quality of ball he needs," McFadden said.

"I thought our kicking game was really ordinary and that didn't build any pressure on the opposition. Even when we did, we just didn't quite have that killer blow and let them off the hook."

McFadden also said he would persist with utility Tuimoala Lolohea at halfback, mainly because he didn't have any other choice.

"We don't have a lot of other options," he said. 

"That just goes right through our whole team. Pretty much what we have out there at the moment is what we have got."

In terms of their 14-point loss to the Panthers, Warriors captain Simon Mannering said they never gave themselves a chance to win after being down 10-0 within 15 minutes, while Penrith's tries either side of half-time didn't help their cause.

"The way we started, not to mention the two tries either side of half-time, there was still plenty of time left. We thought we had every chance to make a bit of a comeback but it wasn't our night," Mannering said.

"We couldn't hold onto the footy, we couldn't keep them in their end, we couldn't build any field position or pressure and it's pretty hard to score points off that."

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