The Warriors have found Panthers Stadium a hostile venue in recent years, going down in their last four visits. Flashback Friday recalls one of the club’s most important victories at the foot of the Blue Mountains.
Chasing a maiden finals berth with five rounds of the 2001 regular season remaining, the ninth-placed Warriors’ away assignment against the Panthers, who were running last, shaped as must-win.
The visitors raced out to a 12-0 lead in even time after early tries to Clinton Toopi and Stacey Jones, but the Panthers clawed back to lead 16-12 by halftime.
Cue a second-half points bonanza.
Penrith put the Warriors to the sword with the first two tries after the break, opening up a 14-point advantage. The hosts still led 32-24 with 13 minutes left, but the Warriors surged to a 48-32 success with four late unanswered tries – with Jones and Francis Meli completing doubles. Fullback sharpshooter Ivan Cleary finished with eight-from-eight off the tee.
The high-scoring thriller was just the seventh match in premiership history to produce 80 points at the time, with an incredible nine tries and 52 points coming in the second stanza.
Panthers hooker Craig Gower was lauded for his stellar performance in a beaten side, while Jones was the Warriors’ best and five-eighth Motu Tony regularly cut the home side’s defence to ribbons.
The Warriors went on to finish eighth in a watershed campaign. Penrith, despite winning two of its last four games, was landed with the wooden spoon on for-and-against.