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Rookie Jarome Luai has supercharged Penrith’s premiership hopes with an electrifying performance in the Panthers’ 36-4 rout of the Warriors.
Playing just the second NRL game of his career, Luai scored two tries, set up a third and had a hand in two more in an eye-catching effort on Friday.
He also nailed six of eight goals to finish with a personal 20-point haul.
The victory ends a worrying two-game slide for the Panthers that had some questioning their title ambitions.
State of Origin stars Nathan Cleary, James Maloney and Tyrone Peachey were among a host of big-names absentees, alongside the injured Josh Mansour and Reagan Campbell-Gillard.
They were the most inexperienced and youngest team to take the field in the NRL this year.
However their seemingly never-ending supply of young talent stepped up when it counted against a sorry Warriors outfit that could now drop as low as seventh by Sunday night.
The top-four aspirants, who entered the clash as the best away team in the league, missed 45 tackles, including five from centre Peta Hiku, who was hooked with 15 minutes to go.
After an early arm-wrestle that lasted almost the opening half hour, Luai single-handedly lit up the 10,255 crowd with an audacious tackle-two grubber for Tyrone Phillips.
He made it two tries in four minutes when he ghosted two forwards with a wicked left-foot step, before ensuring a 12-point lead at the break with a penalty goal in the 37th minute.
Returning centre Waqa Blake continued the rot after halftime, saving a certain try before finishing off a 70-metre movement that involved the lightning fast halfback.
The 21-year-old then switched a set play for Viliame Kikau to score, before completing a breakthrough night with his second try in the 70th minute.
Corey Harawira-Naera went over for for the Panthers’ sixth try not long after, before Ken Maumalo nabbed a consolation try for the Warriors late.
Panthers coach Anthony Griffin joked that Luai and Tyrone May could hold their spots over Blues halves Cleary and Maloney.
“A couple of halves there in the Blues are a bit nervous about when they’re coming back,” he said.
“But no, (Luai) was really good. I was so pleased for both of them, Jarome and Tyrone, that they were able to enjoy that game and play on the front foot.
“It was a credit to our forwards as well. They did a good job for them.”
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney said his team were unlucky not to be rewarded for a strong opening, when they were denied two tryscoring opportunities to dubious forwards pass calls.
“It was a tough one tonight. It came out of nowhere,” he said.
“It was very disappointing how it ended up. For the first 20 minutes we thought it was a real arm-wrestle and we didn’t get a great deal of reward for a fair bit of effort.”