NRL Round 23 preview: Penrith Panthers vs New Zealand Warriors
Remember that night when we almost broke the record for the highest winning margin? May 18 2013 – Penrith Panthers 62 New Zealand Warriors 6. Isaac John had an absolute blinder. Going into the fourth last Premiership game of the season you can only dream about putting in an effort like the one that night when an in form Panthers side dominated a hapless Warriors side heading towards the spoon.
Since going into the form slump, Penrith in three of four of those losses have been competitive in the first half against finals aspirants in Sydney Roosters, Newcastle Knights and North Queensland Cowboys. The second half of each of those matches have resulted in being blown off the park. At some parts of last weekend’s performance it seemed apparent there was a lack of commitment by the team. Maybe in part this saw Luke Walsh benched with around twenty minutes left on the clock. Rightly or wrongly Ivan Cleary resisted making any changes to a team struggling with personnel in the casualty ward. In good news James Roberts returned for the Windsor Wolves tonight and may be available for selection in the Broncos match next Friday night.
Since May 18 2013 the side across the ditch have won seven of their ten matches including like Penrith a big scalp in beating the Storm in one of the best matches of the season in Auckland. Shaun Johnson has been instrumental in their rise into a position where they can possibly make the finals. Manu Vatuvei has been pretty good and Elijah Taylor has given Panther fans some hope that his transfer to the Penrith club in 2014 will be a good move.
I said last week Penrith’s problem is there’s only one real chance of the team scoring, being through Dave Simmons. I get the feeling this week might be different. Isaac John and Lewis Brown will be keen to have big games against their former club. Matt Moylan hopefully has been given a wake up call with the return of Lachlan Coote to the squad that one more lazy effort at fullback will see him replaced. On the other side of the coin, the Warriors will be keen to expose the weak Panthers defence out wide. Vatuvei and Konrad Hurrell will need to be contained by the Panthers if there is any hope of a form reversal.
It would be great to see the Panthers end their four game losing streak but recent form makes a trip to Auckland may end up in a long afternoon at the office.