23 Aug 2018

Warriors leaving it late to lock in NRL play-off spot

11:16 am on 23 August 2018

It's not the jitters, yet, but the Warriors admit they've left it late to lock down an NRL finals berth.

Relief will descend on Mt Smart Stadium if the eight-placed Kiwi outfit can see off Penrith Friday night, booking their first post-season campaign since 2011.

Veteran hooker Issac Luke.

Veteran hooker Issac Luke. Photo: Photosport

Lose and they could face a nerve-wracking final-round match against Canberra, presuming the ninth-placed Wests Tigers have kept themselves in contention by beating Manly on Thursday.

A run of yo-yo performances have stopped the Warriors from sealing the deal, including last week's dramatic 27-26 loss to Canterbury.

Hooker Issac Luke said the prospect of their season hinging on a do-or-die clash with the Raiders was hard to stomach after sitting near the top of the ladder throughout 2018.

"We sat back and said 'Bloody hell, we've got two big games on our hands now, rather than one game'," he said.

"And the Panthers gave us a hiding last time, so it's definitely a game the boys are looking forward to."

The 34-6 hammering in Penrith in round 17 came against a depleted Panthers side steered brilliantly by rookie halfback Jarome Luai.

Nathan Cleary is back in the No.7 jersey and the Warriors will remember his impact in last year's match.

The NSW Origin star bagged a hat-trick and set up the three other tries in one of the finest individual displays in Auckland in recent seasons.

Penrith caretaker coach Cameron Ciraldo has shuffled Tyrone Peachey to five- eighth among a handful of key changes in response to their shock loss to Newcastle.

Peachey will mark Warriors gap-filler Mason Lino, with Blake Green's absence likely to be keenly felt by the hosts.

Coach Stephen Kearney is also concerned about the short turnaround for the Warriors.

His team's only other game featuring five days' preparation was a 50-10 mauling from Melbourne in April.

The positives for Kearney are the return from injury of influential second-rower Tohu Harris and his team's stirring fightback against the Bulldogs before losing to a late Lachlan Lewis field goal.

"Our second half last week was close to the best half of footy we've probably had all year," Kearney said.

"We made one error, completed 20 of 21 sets and scored three tries to one.

"It's important that we take the good part of last week's performance into Friday."


.. Penrith have won six of their past seven against the Warriors, with the exception a golden-point defeat in 2016.

.. The Warriors make more offloads per game (13) than any team but the Panthers concede the least (7.9).

.. Warriors utility Peta Hiku will play his 100th NRL match, with 20 coming for Penrith in 2016-17.

.. Stats: Fox Sports Stats