Panthers upset ‘proves what Warriors need to do’: coach

Jasper Bruce |

Taine Tuaupiki has crossed late in the corner to help the Warriors upset Penrith.
Taine Tuaupiki has crossed late in the corner to help the Warriors upset Penrith.

Stand-in Warriors fullback Taine Tuaupiki has sealed a thrilling 22-20 upset win over Penrith at Suncorp Stadium that coach Andrew Webster says has given his side the blueprint to kickstart their faltering NRL season.

After losing Shaun Johnson and Tohu Harris to injury in the week, the Warriors overcame the early loss of Wayde Egan (concussion) and punished a sloppy Penrith, who were playing their first game since Nathan Cleary tweaked his hamstring and Taylan May was arrested.

But despite the off-field distraction and their clunkiest performance of the year, Penrith had the chance to send the game to extra time when they were awarded a ruck penalty in the last minute at Magic Round on Sunday.

Dylan Edwards stepped up to the tee but missed his shot from 38 metres and the Warriors held on to break a four-game losing streak,

The win is undoubtedly the 2023 preliminary finalists’ most significant of a season that before Sunday, had not been out of second gear. Webster said the Warriors had shown themselves how to win again.

Marcelo Montoya.
Marcelo Montoya scores a spectacular try in the Warriors’ win over Penrith. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

“It definitely proves what we need to do and that does give us confidence,” he said.

“We beat a really good side today. I was happy the way we went about it, just so tough and resilient.

“We haven’t had to throw everything out of the book and that’s been the most pleasing bit. We’ve just got to refocus on our standards and what we hold most important to us as a club.”

The Panthers, meanwhile, failed their first test of a two-month period without star man Cleary, with only Jarome Luai proving a constant threat in attack.

Coach Ivan Cleary was terse even by his standards at full-time.

“We didn’t play well enough,” he said.

“It was a collection of lots of things.”

Warriors players celebrate after the siren.
The Warriors were overjoyed to end a four-game losing streak by beating the triple premiers. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

The Warriors took a surprise lead while Panthers captain Isaah Yeo went to the sin bin for a professional foul on Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad just after half-time.

Their replacement halfback Te Maire Martin shook off a slow start and threw the last pass for two Warriors tries while the side had the numerical advantage.

Once the reigning premiers began to claw back upfield, it appeared inevitable they would take control, and Izack Tago restored their lead with 14 minutes to play by scything over down the right.

But the Warriors once again would not go away, and scores were level on 70 minutes when Martin held a pass up to hit Tuaupiki running through a hole. The 24-year-old had his first NRL try in incredible circumstances.

In only his ninth top-grade game, the No.1 stepped up for a chance to give his side the lead from the sideline. His shot deflected from the post and over the black dot.

“I’m really happy for Taine. He’s got the rewards that he needs,” Webster said of those match-winning plays.

The healthy travelling Warriors contingent rejoiced when Edwards could not reciprocate with his penalty attempt in the final minute.

NSW hopeful Luai looked set to put the Panthers on the path to victory when he broke down the left edge for a 75-metre try and sent Penrith to the break up 10-4.

He was generally solid in his first game in a spell replacing Cleary as the Panthers’ game manager, but couldn’t prevent the gutsy Warriors from sealing one of the upsets of the year.