Warriors v Panthers: Five key points

Warriors v Panthers: Five key points

Cleary comes back to haunt Warriors, Johnson injury a worry for Warriors, Penrith's bench players make an impact and ball-watchers finally get burnt.

Cleary's class comes back to haunt Warriors

In a week where New South Wales fans are desperately searching for a halfback to change their Origin fortunes former Warriors ballboy Nathan Cleary delivered one of the most complete performances of his young career.

The 19-year-old was without his captain and halves partner Matt Moylan due to a hamstring injury and even after a bright start by the home side gradually dragged his team back into the contest.

A clever kick saw Corey Harawira-Naera score the Panthers' first try, a one-handed offload to Trent Merrin paved the way for Tyrone May's try and then Cleary did it all himself by running straight and hard at the Warriors' line and giving his side an 18-12 lead at the break.

The young Panthers conceded 10 points while Harawira-Naera was in the sin-bin but when an opportunity presented itself it was Cleary who turned up to support a Dylan Edwards break and score under the posts and then sealed the result with a brilliant individual effort seven minutes from full-time.

A personal tally of 22 points in a display of rare maturity for one still so young.

Johnson injury potentially disastrous for Warriors

Fans who watched Shaun Johnson hobble from the field with an apparent knee injury 19 minutes from full-time no doubt have recurring nightmares about the 2015 season in which they were bound for the finals before losing their star half and not winning another game for the rest of the year.

Starting the game in brilliant fashion when he exposed debutant Tyrone May on the Warriors' right edge inside two minutes, Johnson copped a heavy knock with the final tackle of the first half but it was supporting a bust by Issac Luke where the real problem emerged.

As he backed up on Luke's inside Johnson was forced to pull up and immediately grabbed at his left knee.

 


May shows character after tough start

When Shaun Johnson runs rings around you in your first involvement in the NRL any debutant would be forgiven for retreating back into their shell but the way in which Panthers five-eighth Tyrone May responded suggests he is made of the right stuff.

With his first touch in the top grade, May got caught in possession on the last tackle but he put a nervy beginning to the background to inject himself into the game.

When the Panthers went to the left again May challenged the Warriors with a strong run that almost reached the try-line and when Cleary attacked and offloaded to Merrin it was May who emerged in support to score on debut.

It was Nathan Cleary's night but the way the 21-year-old responded will give he and his teammates plenty of faith in his future.

Ball-watchers finally get burnt

It is one of the most mystifying aspects of the modern game but the defending team's unwillingness to contest bombs close to their try-line finally came back to bite the Warriors fair on the bum.

The obsession with clogging up the channels where attacking players are trying to run has literally seen wingers and centres take their eyes off the ball and when Solomone Kata did it late in the game it had embarrassing consequences.

Instead of trying to get under the ball Kata had eyes only for those chasing the kick and when it sailed over his head Waqa Blake was given a free shot and a clear path to the try-line to seal Penrith's 12-point win.

Let that be a lesson to the 15 other NRL teams.

Panthers bench brings the impact after Merrin injury

With no Matt Moylan and Trent Merrin taken from the field with a suspected knee injury after 25 minutes, Penrith needed every other member of the squad to raise their impact and it came in bucketloads from the bench.

Buoyed by the emotion of Manu Vatuvei's farewell to the club the Warriors bolted out of the blocks but when Penrith coach injected Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Leilani Latu and James Fisher-Harris into the game the momentum swung dramatically.

Campbell-Gillard was absolutely enormous with a game-high 175m, Latu forced Johnson to kick out on the full with excellent kick pressure and Fisher-Harris ripped in as he made his first appearance in the top grade since Round 10.

The Panthers kept their top eight hopes alive and they have the benchies to thank for much of it.