An all-too-familiar tale for Warriors fans played out on Sunday afternoon. With their season on the line and everything to play for they somehow managed to come up short. And once again, it was a former Warrior putting the final nail in the coffin.
It was a record-equalling fixture for the Warriors, having not played more games against any other NRL side apart from the Storm. And a milestone match for both Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Blake Green.
- 44 – The Warriors and the Panthers have now played each other in 44 games. The Warriors’ record now sits at 18 wins, 1 draw and now 25 losses.
- 34 – Every game in this fixture since 2015 has had a combined score of 34 points or more.
- 150 – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck played in his 150th NRL game, having previously played 84 games for the Roosters.
- 150 – Blake Green also played in his 150th NRL game. Green also played 89 games in the UK Super League for Hull KR and Wigan.
Fresh off the back of his starring role in New South Wales’ State of Origin win, Panthers five-eighth James Maloney was the man of the moment at Mt Smart Stadium, kicking the decisive field goal in a 19-18 golden point victory over the Warriors.
- 19 – In their seven wins this season, the Panthers have not scored more than 19 points in a game.
- 4 – Maloney has kicked four field goals in nine appearances against the Warriors – two of them in golden point; he also booted seven one-pointers in 75 games for the Warriors and has 25 in 239 career NRL games.
It was a gruelling encounter – not one for the purists. And once again it left serious question marks over this Warriors side.
Things started brightly with both sides looking like they had come to play in the opening exchanges. But off the back of the first of many Panthers penalties, Warriors centre Peta Hiku scored in just the fifth minute following some great lead-up work by Karl Lawton and Jazz Tevaga.
- 5 – Peta Hiku scored his fifth try of the season. He is now second-equal with captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for the most tries for the Warriors this season. Ken Maumalo is still way out in front on 10.
- 10 – The Warriors have scored the first try in 10 of their 14 games this season.
- 5 – But they have now lost five of their last seven games when scoring first.
The Panthers responded with some charging runs and were starting to cause the Warriors some concern. Viliame Kikau in particular was starting to really wreak havoc down the Warriors’ right-hand side and helped get a roll on for the visitors.
The Panthers’ first points finally coming from a deflected Maloney kick and regather, shuffled on to one of their dominant forwards, James Tamou, who crashed down with an outstretched arm under the posts.
- 18 – James Tamou’s try was the 18th by a Panthers forward this season.
- 14 – In contrast their backs had only scored 14 tries to this point.
Possession and the penalty count then favoured the Warriors for an extended period as the game went off the boil somewhat. Coach Stephen Kearney deciding to inject Sam Lisone and Bunty Afoa off the bench with both providing a big impact.
A Patrick Herbert penalty goal levelled things up before the Panthers were reduced to 12 men. Liam Martin was sin-binned for repeated infringements. The Warriors took full advantage as Bunty Afoa crashed over for a try to put the Warriors back in front.
- 708 – Bunty Afoa scored his first try for the season and first at NRL level in 708 days for the Warriors, last scoring against the Cowboys in July 2017.
- 2 – He once had a strike-rate of two tries in two games, scoring a double in his second Warriors appearance.
- 1001 – Patrick Herbert’s conversion moved the Warriors to 1001 points against the Panthers in their history, becoming the first opponent they have reached this milestone against.
The Warriors went into the break up 12-6 despite never really dominating. The Panthers were their own worst enemy with their ill-discipline and errors.
- 8 – This was the eighth occasion in 14 games this season that the Warriors have kept the opposition to a single figure score in the first-half.
- 3 – On three occasions they have kept the opposition scoreless in the opening 40.
- This was the sixth occasion the Warriors have been up at halftime this season, going on to lose three of those games now.
A frenetic opening five minutes of the second half saw Panthers centre Brent Naden denied a try by the bunker and then five-eighth Jarome Luai farcically sent to the sin-bin, leaving them reeling with only 11 men on the field.
The Warriors again took the ascendancy immediately with David Fusitu’a scoring a trademark classic in the right-hand corner. Replays suggested otherwise, but the try was awarded.
- 58 – David Fusitu’a scored his 58th career try for the Warriors. He now sits in outright sixth place for the most tries for the Warriors.
- 8 – Fusitu’a has now scored eight tries in 10 games against the Panthers.
- 15 – By this stage last season Fusitu’a had scored 15 tries, compared with only three so far this season.
- 92 – With 92 NRL appearances for the club, Fusitu’a is now the most-capped current Warriors player following Solomone Kata’s midweek departure to the Storm. Kata played 93 games for the Warriors.
— NZ Warriors Stats (@NZWarriorsStats) June 30, 2019
Naden didn’t have to wait long to exact revenge, taking a Maloney cross-field kick cleanly over Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and touching down to reduce the gap to four points with less than half an hour to go.
- 3 – After not scoring in his first NRL game, Brent Naden has now scored in three of his four games.
Another 20-minute tussle ensued with neither side looking like closing the game out. And Warriors fans were once again boarding the weekly rollercoaster ride with a nervy 10 minutes to go.
Then out of nowhere Naden again came up with the goods with a brilliant 70-metre effort. Tuivasa-Sheck uncharacteristically was stood up in a one-on-one situation which is normally his bread and butter.
- Naden now has four tries from four NRL games, including scoring tries in his last three outings.
It was 18-16 Panthers with two minutes left on the clock. Another Panthers penalty, this time due to Maloney playing the ball in an offside position from a short kick-off, gave the Warriors a chance to even things up and send it to golden point. Herbert looked ever so calm as he knocked it over from a tight angle.
- 16 – This was the 16th time the Warriors have entered golden point in their history. They now have a record now of five wins, three draws and eight losses in extra-time.
- 9 – This was the ninth occasion this season that the Warriors have scored single figures in the second half of a game. On three of those occasions, they failed to score at all.
Golden point started off in the same fashion the first 80 mins was played: hardly a spectacle of quality football. That was until the man who knows Mt Smart better than either of the Warriors playmakers, Maloney, snapped a field goal from 30 metres out.
So often the hero when he was a Warrior, but now as a Panther Maloney becomes the executioner. Potentially burying the Warriors finals aspirations whilst giving the Panthers their fifth win on the trot and the Warriors their fifth straight loss at Mt Smart Stadium.
- 5 – The Warriors have now lost five straight games at Mt Smart Stadium for the first time since Round 3, 2005.
- 5 – The Panthers are the third team after the Warriors and Knights in the last two NRL seasons to have won five straight games after losing five games prior.
Another former Warrior, ex-coach and ex-player Ivan Cleary, also enjoyed more success against his former side since departing.
- 6 – Ivan Cleary now has six wins from nine games against the Warriors as Panthers coach.
- 7 – Cleary is the most successful Warriors coach against the Panthers with seven wins from 11 games.
Despite a disappointing collective effort, there were a few individual positives for a stats-based perspective.
- 206 – Ken Maumalo ran for over 200 metres for the sixth time in 2019. He is second behind former clubmate Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad for running metres, and leads the NRL for post-contact metres.
- 277 – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck chalked up a season-high run metres tally. He is fourth in the NRL for total run metres and second for average run metres.
- 5 – Five Warriors forwards – Paasi, Ah Mau, Blair, Tevaga and Afoa – ran for over 100 metres. Blair (100) topped triple-figures for the first time this season, while Paasi (140) and Tevaga (184) also managed their highest tallies of 2019.
- 50 – Jazz Tevaga capped an industrious all-round display starting at lock with a team-high 50 tackles. Isaiah Papali’i, who racked up 39 tackles against the Panthers, is the Warriors’ leading tackler in 2019 (498 in 13 games – equal-18th in the NRL).
Mathematically the Warriors are not completely out of it yet, but they have a tough fixture list in the remaining 10 rounds. And they are not back at home until August.
- 7 – In their last 10 games of the season the Warriors have to play seven of the current Top 8 sides. Two of those, the Sharks and Raiders, twice.
- This is the Warriors’ last game at home until August. They have won three of their seven games away from Mt Smart this season – marginally better than their home form of two wins from seven games.
- 1 – Since their Round 10 defeat of the Panthers, the Warriors have only defeated the second-last Titans – a 24-20 result in Round 14.