Matt Elliott was a man of few words after the New Zealand Warriors capitulated to a record-breaking NRL defeat at the Penrith Panthers - the head coach looked as dumbstruck as his players after his former club inflicted an embarrassing 62-6 defeat at Centrebet Stadium.
Elliott, returning to Penrith for the first time as a head coach since he was removed by the Panthers before the end of the 2011 season, infamously imitated hanging himself with a tie as that reign drew to a close and it was fortunate he was wearing an open neck shirt at last night's post-mortem.
The Australian was ashen-faced as he struggled to comprehend the magnitude of the Warriors eighth loss of the year, a 10-tries-to-one hammering that eclipsed St George Illawarra's 54-0 victory in 2000.
"I've got no excuses for you," he said while reluctantly contemplating a low point of his coaching career.
Pressed for an explanation he said: "I'd like a bit more time to think about it to be honest with you" before offering: "The opposition played outstanding footy but, ah, physically we just weren't in that contest. In this competition you get humiliated if that's the case."
It would have been a galling experience for Elliott who has been a stout defender of his personnel during recent narrow losses to the Melbourne Storm and Bulldogs, claiming the match officials did them no favours.
But Gerard Sutton and Henry Perenara were absolved of blame as the Warriors fell off tackles, were inexcusably offside at a kick-off and had a tendency to concede tries after an error or providing the Panthers with a repeat set.
Shaun Johnson was a prominent culprit when he failed to find touch and former Warriors Lewis Brown and Isaac John combined to for the Panthers fourth try on the stroke of halftime.
The Kiwis playmaker was benched with more than 20 minutes to go - a substitution that clearly upset Johnson as he looked up at Elliott's box in the stands.
Elliott refused to discuss the halfback's demotion for Pita Godinet.
"I'm not going to get into individuals, you can ask as many questions as you like about that. The individual I need to look at is myself, like everyone else in our dressing room. I'm not going to get into that," he said.
Aside from his kicking glitch Johnson was generally anonymous although his teammates never gave him a platform to operate off.
After denying the Panthers possession for the first six minutes the momentum swung as John exploited some weak defence for the opening instalment of his hat-trick.
The Panthers powered to a 26-0 lead at the break and refused to coast as they piled on another six touchdowns while Luke Walsh landed all 11 shots at goal.
Manu Vatuvei at least got the Warriors off the mark with 90 seconds remaining to deny the Panthers a club record winning margin.
Although denied that accolade Ivan Cleary's side backed up a 12-10 upset of the Melbourne Storm last Sunday with a comprehensive all-round performance that saw them rise from 12th to ninth on the ladder.
They recorded a superb 92 per cent completion rate, carried the ball 603-metres further than the Warriors, made 14 offloads to four and the forced the visitors to make 96 more tackles - not that practice made perfect for downcast captain Simon Mannering.
"Defence was non-existent, they were scoring nearly every set in that second half. It's nowhere standard we need to be," he said, before lamenting a spate of unforced errors.
"It was pretty basic errors you wouldn't expect to see in the NRL and off the back of that we didn't want to defend. It's one thing making the error, the next thing is to defend it and we didn't do that at all, all night."
Hooker Nathan Friend, who racked up a game high 41 tackles, summed up the feeling when the Panthers got on a roll when confessing: "It felt like there was a lot of spaces around you.
"As a group we've got to gather our thoughts, have a shift in attitude and turn it around next week [against Newcastle on Sunday].
"They rolled through us in the middle and some quick play the balls.
"It's just out of character, we've been competitive all year, just to throw it in was very disappointing."
Meanwhile, Cleary even managed a smile, though not as his former team's expense.
"Last week and this combined, it's been a good six days," he said.
"We're a work in progress. There's a long way to go but we've definitely made some improvements over the last month or so."
He also thought the Warriors were capable of a transformation.
"It's a tough loss for sure but there's a lot of good people in that shed, a lot of good players."
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)
- © Fairfax NZ News
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