An NRL star is born as Panthers rookie runs riot

Matt Encarnacion

Rookie Penrith sensational Jarome Luai has announced himself in the NRL after a starring role for the depleted Panthers in a commanding 36-4 win over the Warriors.

Playing in just the second NRL game of his career, Luai scored two tries, set up a second 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.

More importantly, the victory ends a worrying two-game slide for the Panthers that had some questioning their title ambitions and consolidates fourth spot.

State of Origin stars Nathan Cleary, James Maloney and Tyrone Peachey were among a host of big-names absentees, including 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.

Luai (R) was unstoppable for the Panthers against the Warriors. Pic: Getty

The top-four aspirants, who entered the clash as the best road team in the league, missed a combined 45 tackles and have now lost consecutive defeats for the first time this year.

Five of them came 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 play-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 20-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 late.