The Penrith Panthers have claimed a surprise scalp across the Tasman today after defeating the New Zealand Warriors 28-24 in front of 11,596 fans at Mt Smart Stadium.
Early momentum was all with the home side, with two tries in the opening twenty minutes putting the Warriors ahead 12-0. Both Thomas Leuluai and Elijah Taylor made a mockery of poor Penrith defence to flex their muscle early.
However from here, the hosts' finals aspirations took a massive hit. Over the next 40 minutes, the Panthers went on to score 22 unanswered points to take a 22-12 lead early in the second half. Miraculous efforts on each sideline from the wingers - two for Mansour and two for David Simmons - were highlights for the visiting Penrith outfit.
The Warriors woke up once they fell ten points behind, with Suaia Matagi getting his first try in the NRL to reduce the margin back to four. The Panthers then hopped ahead again with a try to Sika Manu, who skilfully managed to knock himself out in the act of scoring.
As fulltime approached the hosts did narrow the gap back to four with a frantic try to Konrad Hurrell in the corner, but the Panthers stoically defended the final minutes to ensure a victory.
The Panthers' faint finals hopes remain alive for another week, but it will take a special effort for either side to make it with both sitting on 22 points and carrying negative for and against. Penrith come home to host the Broncos on Friday night with a short turnaround, while the Warriors head to Skilled Park on Saturday, where a strong Kiwi contigent is sure to cheer them home as they desperately seek to keep their finals hopes alive.