Nathan Brown hopes his Warriors have turned a corner after they fought bravely in a 30-16 NRL defeat despite four separate first-half injuries leaving them without a fit man on the bench.
The Panthers scored in the first minute but were slow to exploit the incredible sequence of injuries, conceding two close-range tries to trail 10-6 before eventually running away with victory at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
The win kept them equal on premiership points with first-placed Melbourne while the Warriors (5-12) are now two wins outside the top eight.
The Warriors’ first lost go-to forward Tohu Harris to a suspected ACL tear in what was his return from a shoulder injury, before five-eighth and captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (concussion) copped an accidental knock making a tackle.
They soldiered on with tries off short balls to Wayde Egan and Rocco Berry, before they too left the field with shoulder and hamstring injuries respectively.
Egan will likely miss the rest of the season but still put his hand up to remain on the bench if needed as prop Matt Lodge stomached the prospect of playing the full 80 minutes without a substitution.
In his second game for the Warriors since a mid-season switch from Brisbane, Lodge finished with eight offloads, 20 runs and 130 metres.
Forwards partner Addin Fonua-Blake was also stoic with 25 runs, 205 run metres and 29 tackles.
“It was a huge effort against a very good team, our best performance of the year for sure and something we can take the club forward with,” coach Nathan Brown said.
“Playing with grit and commitment is far more beneficial than being technically sound.
“And the good footy clubs do those sort of efforts consistently.”
Before all the carnage Viliame Kikau opened the scoring, charging down a Chad Townsend kick before notching a first-half double when he barged over to regain the lead after Brian To’o had also scored.
The Warriors had the better of the early stages of the second half but couldn’t find points despite some uncharacteristic Penrith errors.
Their defence remained solid but the tired legs slowly showed, Charlie Staines crossing after they had twice threatened to score long-range tries.
Halfback Tyrone May stretched the Warriors again, going right to the dominant Isaah Yeo who set up Liam Martin to create a 16-point buffer with 15 minutes to play.
May’s looping pass over the heads of three Warriors was then beautifully roped in one-handed by a reaching Staines, before probing Warriors fullback Reece Walsh – battling cramps in the final minutes – was rewarded with a late try.
“It just didn’t quite look how we normally do,” Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said.
“The Warriors they were very brave actually, came up with some big stops on their goal line and on a hard day for them, they should get a fair bit out of that.”