NZ Warriors (5th) v Penrith Panthers (8th) – Elimination Final
Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday 4 September
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It’s a do-or-die rematch which brings a whole range of mental battles; the Warriors and Panthers meet again to wrap up the opening week of Intrust Super Premiership NSW Finals.
It was a game of two halves last week at Mt Smart Stadium, with the Warriors’ 24-12 half-time lead turning into a 36-24 loss to keep the Panthers’ season alive. The locals had no answer for tries to Corey Harawira-Naera, Viliame Kikau and a Zach Mackay double in the second half and will need to address that clock-off immediately to stay in the competition.
The opportunity to play against the same team, at the same ground and virtually the same time a week later could be beneficial for the Warriors, of course, and they will still take confidence out of their opening 40 minutes. While they will be disappointed with their effort late in the game, there was no possibility of a higher season finish regardless and they may not have wanted to risk injury towards the end. Having just experienced the Panthers, they will know exactly what needs to be done to go one better this weekend.
It is also a challenge for Penrith, who will now be forced to play sudden death football two weeks in a row. They had looked like certain top four contenders at the midpoint of the season, demolishing Newtown 60-6 in Round 16, but have won just twice in the eight weeks since in a disappointing finish to the regular season. If they can recapture their earlier form, the Panthers should go back-to-back against the Warriors and can go deep into the finals series.
Where it will be won:
It isn’t a matter of where, but a matter of when the game will be won on Sunday afternoon – and if there’s a repeat of last week, the answer will be half-time. The Warriors have averaged just 5.5 points in the second stanza of their last eight games, and, like the Panthers, they have hung on to win just two of those encounters. With a perceived home ground advantage, the Warriors can certainly win this if they put 80 minutes together, but it is an area they have needed to fix for a long time.
In the forwards, the scales have been slightly tipped in the Warriors’ favour this time around; they should welcome James Gavet back into the team, while the experienced Jeremy Latimore is an omission for the Panthers in favour of an NRL return. This, if anything, could give the home side the edge in the rematch.
Assuming James Gavet plays he will be vital to his side’s chances, but fellow prop Villiame Kikau has been rock solid for Penrith this year. This will be an intriguing battle, along with that of the young halves – any of Erin Clarke, Mason Lino, Te Maire Martin and Zach Dockar-Clay could single-handedly take the game from their opposition.
- NZ Warriors: James Gavet, Patrick Sipley, Fetalaiga Pauga
- Penrith: Dylan Fuad, Josh Hall
- NZ Warriors: Nathaniel Roache, Bunty Afoa, Semisi Tyrell
- Penrith: Sione Katoa, Jeremy Latimore
Witness history this September at the 2016 NSWRL Grand Final Day. On Sunday, 25 September the Intrust Super Premiership NSW decider, along with the Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield Grand Finals, take place at Pirtek Stadium, with tickets just $10 for adults and kids under 12 free. Click here to secure your seat.