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20 Apr 2018 9:21
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Rugby League

    Penrith slump nags Johnson before rematch

    Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson admits his side's second-half collapse to Penrith in mid-May will be front and centre when the two sides clash again on Friday.

    - article from www.rugbyleague.co.nz

    Stephen Kearney
    Stephen Kearney

    It's a result that, even after six weeks of NRL football, remains firmly stuck in Shaun Johnson's craw.

    Ahead 28-6 at half-time, Johnson's Warriors outfit - with two points basically in the bag - proceeded to throw away their lead with the flakiest of second-half collapses against Penrith in western Sydney.

    In what was the club's worst ever capitulation, the 36-28 mid-May reverse humiliated Johnson and his teammates - and even stirred some across the ditch to question the Warriors' worth to the NRL.

    Yet, with three wins and three losses since that game, Johnson's Warriors will finally have their chance to exact revenge on Friday.

    "I want to rectify it, for sure," the 26-year-old halfback said.

    "It was obviously a very disappointing day. It still sits in my belly - so hopefully it still sits in a few of the boys' as well."

    The clubs' recent history adds further spice to a fixture between two sides quickly running out of time to make a top-eight play.

    Sitting equal ninth on the ladder, both have plenty to play for - and could all but end the other's finals hopes with a victory.

    The Warriors, with two byes in the past four weeks, can lay claim to being the fresher side. But the Panthers, whose campaign was on death row at the start of May, certainly head into the match in better form.

    Since their come-from-behind Warriors win, Anthony Griffin's troops have pushed on to new heights with four wins from six - including last weekend's win over Manly.

    Nevertheless, Griffin was on red alert for a chastened Warriors, who would also be keen to farewell veteran Manu Vatuvei on a good note.

    "I'd imagine it's something they weren't proud of. There'll be a response for sure, and they've got a big night planned with Manu," Griffin said, referring to the Warriors' plans to rename Mount Smart Stadium the "Manu Vatuvei Stadium" and give Vatuvei masks and t-shirts to spectators.

    "I'm sure they'll be trying to use that and tap into those emotions."

    On the personnel front, the Warriors welcome Issac Luke and Solomone Kata back to NRL duty, but lose Ryan Hoffman and Albert Vete to long-term injuries.

    Penrith, meanwhile, have ushered Kiwi back-rower James Fisher-Harris back into the first-grade fold after a 2017 campaign marred by injury.

    Warriors boss Stephen Kearney says his side will need to match the Panthers' physicality - particularly through prop James Tamou - to stand a chance.

    "We've found what works for us and what our game looks like. When you see the Warriors play, there's a look about us now," Kearney said.

    STATS THAT MATTER:

    * Penrith have won seven of their past nine NRL matches against the Warriors. However, they have lost in their two previous trips to Mt Smart Stadium. They have also won just three away matches in 2017.

    * The Warriors have won six of their seven games at Mt Smart Stadium this year. However, they have won just one of their nine games outside of Auckland.

    * Manu Vatuvei has played 226 NRL games for the Warriors since his 2004 debut. He will not play on Friday, having signed for Salford this week, but has been ceremonially named in his trademark No.5 jumper.


    NZN




    © 2018 NZN, NZCity


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