Matt Elliott's career as an NRL coach was in jeopardy after Penrith sacked him in 2011 and his former club undermined his current employment prospects as the rebuilding Panthers humiliated the New Zealand Warriors with a record-breaking 62-6 loss at Centrebet Stadium tonight.
After claiming his side were the victims of flawed refereeing during a sequence of narrow losses, the damage was undeniably self-inflicted as the Warriors slumped to the worst loss in the club's history, eclipsing their 54-0 loss to St George Illawarra in 2000.
The Warriors' eighth defeat of 2013 is also their ninth in a row on Australian soil and first loss at the Panthers headquarters in five years.
They remain in 15th after 10 rounds - only because the Wests Tigers were flogged 54-10 by South Sydney last night.
The Warriors were just as deficient - and not as injury-hit - as Ivan Cleary, Lewis Brown and Isaac John played leading roles in terrorising their former club as the Panthers backed up a 12-10 win over premiers Melbourne last Sunday in ominous fashion.
John, told he wasn't required when Brian McClennan succeeded Cleary after the 2011 Grand Final, scored a first half double and set up two others at five-eighth; Brown was also damaging in the centres while their coach's ploy of employing dual dummy halves in Kevin Kingston and James Segeyaro created even more indecision in a vulnerable defensive line.
While John and Luke Walsh orchestrated the Panthers attack with aplomb, counterparts Shaun Johnson and Thomas Leuluai summed up the Warriors woes as they copped a 10-try battering.
Incumbent Kiwis halfback Johnson was benched in the third quarter for Pita Godinet while Leuluai committed the cardinal sin of being in front of the kick-off from a restart - a penalty that turned into another six points when another former Warrior Matt Robinson hit a hole off a John pass.
John, who only gained an opportunity due to the injuries of three other five-eighths last weekend, consolidated his position after beating three defenders to open the scoring before laying on the Panther's second try after taking on the line to cause chaos in the Warriors defensive screen.
Travis Robinson was the beneficiary - and justifiably so - after the wings grubber yielded a repeat set that the Warriors were unable to thwart.
Former Warriors utility Brown then joined John in tormenting his former club when he surged over down a narrow left edge to capitalise on another repeat set from a drop out while Luke Walsh offered no respite as he nailed his second difficult conversion.
The halfback added another penalty as the Panthers maintained their momentum and the buoyant home side then revealed a ruthless streak when Johnson summed up the Warriors night when he failed to find touch with a relieving penalty.
Robinson made a great catch and Brown swiftly fended off Ben Henry before in passing for John to dive over unopposed in the 39th minute to give the Panthers a 26-0 halftime lead that was only going one way as the Warriors disintegrated.
Manu Vatuvei and Pita Godinet were denied scant consolation tries in the dying stages before John notched his hattrick, though the big Warriors wing finally carried four defenders over the line with 90 agonising seconds remaining.
Penrith Panthers 62 (Isaac John 3, Lewis Brown 2, Travis Robinson, James Segeyaro, Matt Robinson, David Simmons, Kevin Kingston tries; Luke Walsh 11 goals) NZ Warriors 6 (Manu Vatuvei try; Ben Henry goal). HT: 26-0
- © Fairfax NZ News
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