Penrith Panthers put together a complete performance, surviving an early onslaught from the Warriors before scoring 23-straight points, to run out 25-12 victors in front of 17,168 fans at Stadium Australia tonight.
The halves from the Panthers led from the front - James Maloney and Nathan Cleary, produced clinical performances in the four-tries to two performance, which has ended the Warriors season and sent the Panthers, a side that had been written off at various points this season, into a Semi-Final next Friday night against either, Sydney Roosters and Cronulla Sharks.
In a 30-point first half, we had the sublime and the simply absurd from both sides. David Fusitua with another trademark put-down, Tyrone Peachey's quickfire double, saw five tries in a frantic and probably characteristic performance from both Penrith and the Warriors.
In the first twenty, it looked like the Warriors were running away with the contest. They had the offloads flowing, including a wonderous flick from James Gavet, in the lead-up for Fusitua's try and the dogged determination from Issac Luke had them up 12-2, as the healthy crowd support roared them on.
This season, Penrith have made a habit of scoring in bunches. The calming presence of James Maloney turned the tide, a raking kick that caught out Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and gifted the Panthers field position. The veteran half backed up superbly from smart work from Sione Katoa and Dallin Watene-Zelesniak to level the contest up.
From there, Nathan Cleary once again, demonstrated the aged head on young shoulders. The Blues half laid on a perfect kick for Peachey's first then saw the numbers on last for the centre's second as the Panthers shockingly, took the advantage going into the break, 18-12.
In the second half, it was a professional performance from the Panthers. Winger Christian Crichton took the margin out to twelve, finished off a left-right move then Maloney, inflated it with a 61st minute field goal.
Maloney and Cleary kicked the Warriors to death in the second half. In one series, the Blues halves forced three straight dropouts before Crichton's four-pointer then the deep game from Maloney, where he turned around fill-in fullback Gerard Beale constantly, forced the Warriors to work it off their line and sapped their energy.
For 300-game stalwart, Simon Mannering it was a sour note for the reliable secondrower to bow out on. Besides their first hand surge, where they piled on 12 points, they couldn't find a rhythm, as both Shaun Johnson and Blake Green couldn't match the effort of their opposite numbers. From all the promise early on, it was a successful season for the Warriors getting back into the finals for the first time since 2012, but also disappointment after a strong start.
The Panthers, they just refuse to go away. Written off at various points this season, a 15-point victory that didn't contain any heart clenching plays, only some solid performances from their key men, as they head into another Elimination Final, Friday night against the loser of tonight's Roosters-Sharks qualifying final.