Panthers reopen old wounds for Elliot

Bad day at the office: Simon Mannering of the Warriors is tackled. Photo: Matt King Adam Docker of the Panthers puts on a fend. Photo: Matt King


It was those who once were Warriors that haunted their former club as the Panthers racked up 62 points to send Matt Elliott from Penrith with an all-too-familiar headache.

In a lesson to the Wests Tigers in how to overcome adversity, the part Windsor Wolves, part Penrith Holden Cup and part first-grade team looked pretty in pink as they celebrated a 62-6 thumping of the Warriors. It was almost the greatest night in the club’s 46-year history history, falling four points short of breaking the record for the biggest winning margin set back in 2004 when the Panthers smashed Manly 72-12.

If it wasn’t bad enough the Warriors suffered the biggest loss in the club’s history, the defeat was compounded by the fact it was their former teammates, Isaac John and Lewis Brown, who led the Ivan Cleary-coached side to an emphatic victory.

John bagged a hat-trick while Brown nabbed a double as the Panthers racked up consecutive victories for the first time since rounds 24 and 25 last year. They may lack the marquee players to pack Centrebet Stadium on a weekly basis and are only using $2.5 million of their salary cap, but Cleary appears to finally have his recently gathered football team on the same page.

Spare a thought for Elliott, who must be wondering why he even bothered turning up to the ground that has provided him with so much heartache over the years.

He was dumped by the Panthers at the end of 2011 after failing to win one of 10 finals matches. And on his first trip back to the foot of the mountains as a head coach, Elliott left with that same underwhelming feeling as he witnessed his side produce a performance capable of challenging the Tigers for worst of the season.

They failed to find touch from a penalty, were offside from a kick-off, conceded two tries from dummy half, dropped enough ball to lose three games of football and somehow found the head of the touch judge with a cut-out pass.

Even halfback Shaun Johnson was pulled from the field early in the second half to watch the train wreck unravel from the bench.

While many put Penrith’s shock victory against premiers Melbourne last week down to a bad night at the office from the Storm, the Panthers went a long way on Saturday night to proving they won’t be easybeats. They did it without Lachlan Coote, Sam McKendry, Josh Mansour, Blake Austin, Cameron Ciraldo, Wes Naiqama, Tom Humble and Jeremy Latimore – all in the club’s crowded rehabilitation ward.

There has been criticism of halfback Luke Walsh and his inability to challenge the line, but even he was putting his body on the line. His goal-kicking was first class, kicking 11 from 11, and his general kicking game was equally impressive, putting in a pin-point accurate kick to send David Simmons into the corner.

The 9386 fans at Centrebet Stadium were even booing when Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei broke his side’s duck with two minutes remaining. Vatuvei’s try ruined what would have been Penrith’s biggest victory, but Ben Henry’s missed conversion ensured it was New Zealand’s worst loss.

Their previous biggest losing margin was recorded back in round 14 of 2000 in Wollongong when St George Illawarra ran riot 54-0.

Brown believes Saturday night’s win was a result of the confidence the side gained from the upset win against Melbourne six days earlier. “Last week was a big game for us and we took a lot of confidence out of it,” Brown said after the game. “Hopefully we can continue it.”

PENRITH 62 (I John 3 L Brown 2 K Kingston T Robinson M Robinson J Segeyaro D Simmons tries L Walsh 11 goals) bt WARRIORS 6 (M Vatuvei try B Henry goal) at Centrebet Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Henry Perenara. Crowd: 9,386.

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