The Warriors honoured departing wing Manu Vatuvei with a final send off in their clash against Penrith Panthers at Mt Smart Stadium. But it wasn't the result the home side were looking for as the Panthers out muscled them, 34-22 final score.
It was an emotional last walk on the field for Vatuvei and his family. Vatuvei donned his No.5 Warriors jersey one last time before he heads across the Tasman to play for the Salford Red Devils.
"Just playing inside all the players, started from Francis Meli to Clinton Toopi, and then later on to Jerome (Jerome Ropati) and now Kearney (Stephen Kearney) and now to solo side. That’s the memorable moments I will ever have of wearing the jersey, is playing next to all those guys," says Vatuvei.
The Warriors quickly got the scoring under way. Shaun Johnson slicing through a narrow gap in Panther’s defence to find Simon Mannering on the inside dotting down one minute in.
The Panthers had a few slippery moments, Dylan Edwards dropping a high ball off Shaun Johnson inside their 10m line. Eventually a nifty kick from Nathan Cleary would equalise for the Panthers, Corey Harawera-Naera grounding the try.
It was try for try for the remainder of the first half, Solomone Kata dotting down at the 16th minute and Panther’s debutant Tyrone May scoring his first try.
But it was Cleary who stole the show before half time crashing over at the 35th minute to take the lead for the visitors. 18-12 to the Panthers.
Kata and Bodene Thompson opened the scoring in the second half regaining the Warrior’s lead.
But Cleary continued to prove to be the Warriors biggest threat scoring a hat trick and kicking a high ball at the 79th minute for Waqa Blake to seal the deal.