Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson determined to set the record straight against Panthers

The Warriors squandered a 28-6 halftime lead against the Panthers in round 10.
MARK KOLBE/GETTY IMAGES

The Warriors squandered a 28-6 halftime lead against the Panthers in round 10.

It is nothing personal but the Warriors clearly owe the Panthers on Friday night.

While Manu Vatuvei's imminent departure has dominated the headlines, the Warriors head into the clash at Mt Smart looking to atone for what was their lowest point of the season back in round 10 in Penrith.

Leading 28-6 at the break, the Auckland outfit capitulated in the wake of a Panthers onslaught, conceding five second-half tries to lose 36-28.

It was an astonishing result, even by Warriors standards. But having had more than two months to stew on the outcome, halfback Shaun Johnson is determined to set the record straight.

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"I want to rectify it, for sure," said Johnson. "'Mooks' (coach Stephen Kearney) might give us a little friendly reminder in the video (session). 

"It was obviously a very disappointing day a few weeks back and it still sits in my belly, hopefully it sits in a few of the boys." 

There was an intense public backlash to the loss, which crossed the line when two fans posted a video on social media burning Warriors jerseys. Although, the players did little to silence the criticism the following week with the disappointing defeat to the Dragons in Hamilton.

They have somewhat steadied the ship since then, winning three of their last five matches to stay in touch with the top eight.

The Warriors remain far from the finish product, as shown by the last-up defeat to Manly in Perth when they gave up an early 16-0 lead.

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But coach Stephen Kearney says the team is beginning to get comfortable with the style he wants to play.

"The last six weeks of footy I feel that we've taken some good steps forward and sometimes we've been half a step back," Kearney said. 

"We've sort of found what works for us and what our game looks like - when you see the Warriors play there is a look about us now. 

"So it's really important that we get straight back into that groove against a really tough opponent."

The Warriors have pulled out all the stops to pay tribute to Vatuvei on Friday, who departs for the UK two days later to join new club Salford, including temporarily renaming Mt Smart 'Manu Vatuvei Stadium'.

However, his teammates know the best way to honour the club legend is by securing what would be a hugely important victory.

With the Panthers and Warriors locked on 18 points, four points outside the top eight, the match is pivotal for both teams' hopes of reaching the playoffs.

The Warriors need to win at least five of their last eight games to have a chance of breaking their playoff drought and, given their poor away record, it is imperative that they deliver on home soil. 

Yet rather than ignore it, Johnson said they were embracing the pressure of the occasion.

"It's a really big week. We've spoken about it, we understand that this is a very important game for both teams," he said. 

"We want to really enjoy that challenge, get excited to play back here on a Friday night because for us it doesn't happen too often."

 - Stuff

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