The key numbers leading into the weekend's first elimination final show both the Panthers and Warriors are capable of a big capitulation on their day, NRL.com Stats reveal.
First blood to baby Panthers
The only final this weekend featuring two teams who have played each other twice this year (the other three finals are between teams who have met just once in the 2018 Telstra Premiership) reveals both the Panthers and Warriors should be rightly nervous about the last time they visited the other's home patch.
Luckily for Penrith they host this one; Panthers Stadium is the scene of the Warriors' second-biggest loss this year, a hugely disappointing 36-4 capitulation in round 17 against an injury- and Origin-ravaged Penrith outfit that completely out-enthused a Warriors side that didn't look to be travelling too badly leading into the contest.
Tohu Harris was the only notable absentee from a full-strength Warriors squad while Penrith were without their entire first-choice spine (Dylan Edwards, James Maloney, Nathan Cleary and Peter Wallace) from the start of the season.
The six-tries-to-one savaging featured the baby Panthers dominating possession (57%-43%), run metres (1921-1153) and post-contact metres (519-309) with a massive 8-1 line break advantage and a whopping 11-metre advantage in distance gained per set (50.6-39.8).
The Warriors were on the wrong end of a 62-19 missed tackle count and a 10-7 count in both penalties and errors.
Warriors gain revenge
The two clubs met just a fortnight ago in round 24 of the Telstra Premiership as the Warriors continued their late-season resurgence. The 36-16 result wasn't quite as comprehensive as Penrith's round 17 win but it was still convincing.
Importantly it came just two weeks ago and will be fresh in the memory for both teams. Another factor that will give the Warriors confidence is that they dominated on the scoreboard without dominating possession or having an advantage in the penalty count.
They had a narrow advantage in total metres (1484-1380) and average set distance (41.2-39.5) and missed more tackles (42-30) yet made six line breaks to Penrith's two.
Penrith also came out on top in terms of offloads 12-10 and forced drop-outs 3-0.
The Warriors won the game through the middle part of each half and Penrith's late tries (they scored the final two tries of the match in the last 11 minutes of the game) narrowed the score somewhat after the Warriors had led 36-4 in what would have been a perfect mirror-image reversal of the previous result.
Quick tries to David Fusitu'a and Mason Lino in the 23rd and 27th minute came in a period the Panthers were starved of ball – they did not have a single possession between the 21st and 29th minute.
Similarly in the second half, Fusitu'a completed his hat-trick with a 56th-minute try and Solomone Kata scored in the 66th; Penrith had just one possession (an incomplete set) between the 55th and 67th minutes.
Penrith with the historical advantage but ANZ favours neither side
Penrith boast a 23-win, 17-loss (with one draw) record against the Auckland club, who have won just three of their past 12 against Penrith. They have five straight losses against Penrith in games played in Australia with their most recent win coming in 2012 (James Maloney was one of the best on ground for the Warriors that day but will be plotting their downfall this time around).
The Warriors have just seven wins from 20 visits to ANZ Stadium (with one draw) and just one win from their past six visits. Penrith won the only meeting there between the two clubs – a preliminary final in Penrith's 2003 premiership season.
Penrith themselves haven't been too flash at ANZ of late either with just two wins from their past nine visits.
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