Warriors v Panthers: Five key points
A clever play from Shaun Johnson in golden point saw him cross for the match-winning try and lift the Warriors to a 20-16 win over the Panthers. Here are five key points from Saturday's clash at Mt Smart Stadium.
Johnson and Kata rise to the occasion
While it will be Johnson's individual try which grabs most of the headlines post-match, centre Solomone Kata produced one of his own seconds earlier which was just as important to the final outcome.
With Penrith working their way out of their own half, Kata came up with a stinging one-on-one tackle and stripped the ball free, regaining possession to set the Warriors up with the winning opportunity.
From their Johnson was typically clutch, pulling out of an attempted field goal to duck through a rapidly-advancing Penrith line and score the match-winner.
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said the heads-up play was an indicator of Johnson's ability under extreme pressure.
"That was a very composed play, because he knew he wasn't going to get a clean shot away and he knew he had tackles up his sleeve," McFadden said.
"I thought that was a very big play and a big moment, that was good to see."
Captain Ryan Hoffman also took time to acknowledge Kata for his "special play" on a night where the Tongan centre ran for 129 metres.
Black marks in golden point
At times it seemed the Panthers were doing everything they could to shoot themselves in the foot through golden point.
Errors from Dallin-Watene Zelezniak and Leilani Latu gifted the Warriors with easy possession, while a loose carry resulting in a one-on-one strip with just over a minute to go sealed Penrith's fate, according to coach Anthony Griffin.
"We turned it over three times in golden point and unfortunately we paid right at the death there," Griffin said.
"In golden point we hardly had any possession, as I say we turned it over three times and in the end that's a big lesson for us out of tonight."
Due in part to those errors, the Panthers weren't able to get in position for a match-winning play at any point in additional time.
Fusitu'a likely to have found his home
One of the major talking points through the week in Auckland was McFadden's decision to put Tuimoala Lolohea back to fullback and shift David Fusitu'a to the centres, despite the latter displaying plenty of ability at the back in recent weeks.
But it paid off in spades, with Fusitu'a crossing for a double and looking defensively sound out on the right edge.
In addition to his two tries the lanky flyer carried the ball 10 times for 98 metres and made a line break.
"That is why we put him there in the first place. I have got a lot of confidence in David and he certainly didn't let anyone down tonight, he was very good," McFadden said.
"The way David has been playing for the last two months, he has been competing like everyone in the side.
"He knows what his role is, he has obviously got some real talent but he is playing tough and that is what we are trying to do, trying to build."
Lessons learned for Warriors
When you play three lots of golden point football in the space of four games you are bound to pick up a tip or two.
After suffering extra-time defeats in three of their last four games, the Warriors rallied to earn their second golden point win of the year, leaning on some of their recent experience.
"I suppose last week (a 26-22 golden point loss to the Raiders) was disappointing because I felt we stopped playing, but we made a point of winning the aggression in golden point and I thought we did that," Hoffman said.
"We got ourselves in position but I didn't feel like we panicked.
"We would have liked to have got [a field goal] shot away, especially in that first instance of golden point, but I don't think we panicked too much."
Penrith almost find a way despite the odds
A quick look at the stat sheet from the match would lead you to believe the Warriors were probably comfortable winners.
The Panthers were full of mistakes in Auckland, making 13 errors and completing at just 71 per cent.
As a result the visitors only saw 47 per cent of the ball and missed 30 tackles, yet somehow kept finding a way to remain in the game.
"I thought our guys, we clearly didn't have our execution right in the first half," Griffin said.
"But I was really proud of their effort to claw our way back into the game.
"I thought we had a bit of momentum… but once it gets to golden point anything can happen."