Ciraldo finds positives in loss to Warriors
With Dean Whare on his way to hospital suffering a fractured arm, the sirens were also sounding about Penrith's ability to extend their season beyond the first week of September.
When asked what went right in the match, rookie coach Cameron Ciraldo said the late tries scored by Waqa Blake and Trent Merrin highlighted an otherwise forgettable 36-16 loss to the New Zealand Warriors on Friday night.
The size of the loss could have huge ramifications as final placings - and the chance to secure home finals - appear certain to be decided by points differentials.
"I think it was good for our confidence too," Ciraldo said of the pair of late tries as the Panthers slid to sixth courtesy of the six tries to three hammering at Mt Smart Stadium.
'We were doing some good things out there. You know the scoreline didn't show that but, it was good to finish the game off like that,'' Ciraldo said.
When quizzed on Whare, Ciraldo said the depth of his squad would again be tested.
"He's not great but all year we've had blokes step up and come into the team and do their job so we just need to do that again."
Ciraldo had signalled the likely return of five-eighth James Maloney for Penrith's final regular season match away to Melbourne next weekend. The veteran playmaker's return from a knee injury can't come soon enough following back-to-back losses to the Knights and now the Warriors.
"We need all the experience we can get at the moment and James Maloney is a big part of our team," Ciraldo said.
"He's a real leader as well, so to have him and his experience back there will be really good. But there's also a few other things we've got to fix up and not just rely on James on coming back and turning our fortunes around."
Captain Isaah Yeo bemoaned the early penalty count that helped "piggyback" the Warriors race out to 18-4 halftime lead.
"I thought we were probably getting the raw end of the stick with those 50-50 calls. I know they evened up in the end, I think the penalty count ended at about 9-all, but where we're giving them away and where they are is completey different," Yeo said.
One thing Yeo is certain about is not wanting to face the Warriors again in Auckland if it can be avoided, especially not with Shaun Johnson in the mood he was in.
"I thought he was outstanding tonight," Yeo said of the Warriors No.7 before heaping the same superlative on the Warriors as a collective.
"They defended well and kept turning up for each other and they were able to capitalise with their tries. Look, they're a very exciting team and I'm sure they'll make a fair run in that finals. I'd much prefer to face them in Sydney than here obviously."
Ciraldo defended the wholesale changes he made after the Newcastle loss, plans that were disrupted when fullback-turned-five-eighth Tyrone Peachy was forced to slip out to the centres for Whare.
The coach also side-stepped talk of floundering in the wake of his elevation following Anthony Griffin's sacking.
"I suppose you're learning all the time but for us, we've just been worried about our performance and trying to learn from our losses and get prepared for games," he said.