Webster confident in Johnson to return for NRL semi

Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS

Coach Andrew Webster is confident Shaun Johnson will return from a calf injury in time for the Warriors' sudden-death semi-final after the halfback's absence hurt them in a 32-6 qualifying loss to Penrith.

But despite the hefty defeat, the coach insisted he would back the makeshift pairing of Te Maire Martin and Dylan Walker to hold up if required against either Canberra or Newcastle next week.

The halves combination struggled to exert pressure in Penrith on Saturday afternoon, and with the result, the Warriors must now return to Auckland licking their wounds.

"We got a really good finals lesson that you've got to build pressure. When you build pressure you look a different football team," Webster said.

The Warriors' halves situation was not solely to blame for the defeat; the three first-half tries that put the Panthers on the path to victory all came directly after errors from others.

"If you look at the bits that we got wrong, Shaun wouldn't have had any impact on (them)," Webster said.

"He would've had some different touches for some different kicks at times but we had two yardage errors and offside on a kick-chase that Shaun's not going to be able to change."

But it was less a case of what the Warriors did without Johnson and more of what they were unable to do.

To disrupt Penrith's premiership-winning system, based chiefly on patience and discipline, it takes a bit of courage, a bit of organisation and a bit of imagination.

Without Johnson, the Warriors lacked those qualities. Encouragingly, Webster believe he would be back in time for next week.

"I was confident he'd play this week. We'll be day-by-day there and keep ticking over but yeah confident he'll be all right," he said.

Webster defended his replacements, who had limited chances to hone their combination before Johnson was ruled out on Thursday.

Martin had played only one game since April and Walker had not started in the halves since May, with Webster confident in the duo holding up next week if required.

"That was their first opportunity together," he said.

"There were so many good things that they did today and so many things they'll learn and get better at."

Walker had a particularly tough night, with two errors and nine missed tackles.

On top of that, the Warriors missed the cohesion he provides in his usual role as a ball-playing middle forward.

Johnson's kicking game was sorely missed as the Panthers, the best side out of yardage in the competition, ate up Walker and Martin's middling attempts with the boot.

Walker and Martin were unable to rein the Panthers back in as Penrith dominated field position with ease, putting even more onus on the Warriors to nail their attempts from close range.

But they again came up short without their mastermind Johnson.