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RD 14 MATCH PREVIEW: PENRITH PANTHERS VS ST GEORGE-ILLAWARRA DRAGONS

this week we welcome a guest contributor – Adam Bagnall from weloveleague website and is a mad Dragons fan.  He will give us an insight into how all things Dragons.

SQUADS

Panthers: Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Dean Whare, Isaah Yeo, Dallin Watene Zelezniak, Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace, Sam McKendry, James Segeyaro, Brent Kite, Tyrone Peachey, Sika Manu, Elijah Taylor. Interchange: Lewis Brown, Jeremy Latimore, Nigel Plum, Bryce Cartwright

Dragons: Adam Quinlan, Peter Mata’utia, Charly Runciman, Gerard Beale, Jason Nightingale, Gareth Widdop, Benji Marshall, Ben Creagh (c), Mitch Rein, Mike Cooper, Leeson Ah Mau, Joel Thompson, Tyson Frizell. Interchange: Jack de Belin, Will Matthews, Shane Pumipi, Bronson Harrison, Craig Garvey

Docker, Simmons missing through injury

Adam Docker and Dave Simmons are casualties of Penrith’s great win on the Gold Coast last weekend.  Docker is still having back trouble and will be rested until after next week’s bye.  Simmons’ injury not so good, a knee problem with an indefinite period on the sidelines.  Some suggestions that the winger will miss up to eight weeks.  Kevin Kingston is back and fit, but has been pushed out of the NRL squad and into VB NSW Cup thanks to James Segeyaro’s impressive form in the nine jumper.  A loss for New South Wales but a gain for Penrith with Josh Mansour not selected by Laurie Daley in the squad for Origin II.  Penrith equalled their 2010 feat of winning four in a row with a solid win at Robina.  If Penrith get over the line this weekend, they will be on par with John Lang’s 2005 side that won their final five games of that season.

Updated injury list courtesy of www.penrithpanthers.com.au

DAVE SIMMONS: Tore the medial ligament in his knee and will be out for 6-8 weeks.

ADAM DOCKER: Failed a concussion test after the Gold Coast game and will have a week off

NATHAN SMITH: Fractured his T3 vertabrae and will be out for 4 weeks

ISAAC JOHN: Ruptured his achilles in round 9. Out for the season.

GEORGE JENNINGS: He dislocated his elbow in our Auckland Nines quarter final and underwent surgery to repair the damage. Out for the season

JAMAL IDRIS: On personal leave. we wish Jamal all the best in his time away from the game

Dragons come with new coach and the Benji factor

It’s been a dramatic year for the Dragons so far with Steve Price replaced by former club legend Paul McGregor.  Then they secured the services of Benji Marshall after his unsuccessful tilt at Super Rugby.  The Dragons will suffer this week from Origin duties through Josh Dugan and Trent Merrin.  Charlie Runciman replaces Dugan in the centres, while Mitch Rein is in for Merrin.  Bronson Harrison is named on an extended bench.

and now here’s Adam Bagnall and how the Dragons thumped Cronulla last week

The St George-Illawarra Dragons ran in six tries as they comprehensively beat the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 30-0. It could have been more had Gareth Widdop’s goal kicking radar been better as the normally reliable Widdop managed just 3/6. Joel Thompson also spilt a Marshall short pass with the line wide open. Apart from these blemishes, the Dragons were still good enough to get the win and keep their opponents to 0.

The Dragons scored 4 first half tries to Peter Mata’utia (12th) Josh Dugan (22nd and 33rd) and Gerard Beale (37th) before adding two more to Josh Dugan (60th) and Gerard Beale (75th). After two below par performances, Benji Marshall had his best game, setting up five tries, including all three to Josh Dugan who is improving each week in his transition to centre. This allowed Adam Quinlan to play fullback where he also excelled, running onto a Marshall pass in the 12th minute before firing a long pass out to Mata’utia to open the scoring. Trent Merrin also had a memorable match running for 256 metres and making 25 tackles while interchange prop Jack De Belin was strong, running for 165 metres and making 29 tackles.

‘Shooter McGavin’ ready to fire against former club

Saturday represents the first time Jamie Soward will face his former club St George-Illawarra Dragons at NRL level.  From reading tweets today from Dragons supporters, there’s a mutual respect for the man who no longer plays with their club.  The resemblance between Soward’s respect by Dragons fans is on par with Preston Campbell, when the talented five-eighth left Cronulla to win a Premiership with the Panthers.  Soward may have left the Dragons with low morale, but at Penrith the change has been as good as a holiday.  There’s a spring in his step and he’s responding to the positive culture around him.  Soward was at his cheeky best at the members only function last Friday night on the Gold Coast posing in the background of some photos.  One will wonder if Soward scores on Saturday night whether both sets of fans will rise as one for the popular half.  It certainly was the case when Presto scored against the Sharks in 2003 at Shark Park.

Panthers have an edge over the Dragons

Penrith’s will go in with five wins and one loss home record for 2014 heading into this weekend’s game at SportingBet Stadium.  A win is vital this weekend as they hit the road after the bye week and head to Auckland, followed by a clash with the Tigers at Leichhardt.  Penrith trail in the head-to-head battle against the St George-Illawarra franchise by 16-10, with two draws.  But the last five times these two sides have met it’s been Penrith victorious on four occasions.  In 2013 Penrith shut out the Dragons 19-0 on a historic night where the club won in all three grades for the first time at Kogarah.  Penrith’s 25-10 win on June 29 at SportingBet Stadium was after a slow start, with the win secured after two late tries to James Roberts and James Segeyaro.  Mose Masoe inspirational in victory.

What could happen…

There’s no doubt that week to week that Penrith are gaining confidence as they post victories.  Ivan Cleary just needs to put a lid on the confidence and remind the team that you need to stick to the basics.  Play an error free game and force the opposition into mistakes.  Last week Penrith excelled in forcing the error.  In particular Tyrone Peachey who shut down two kicks from Albert Kelly’s boot and was rewarded with scoring once following the error being forced.  What I will say is that the determination to get to the loose ball has improved out of sight and been partly responsible for the success of this team.  There’s no doubt Penrith will play the game out wide and this could present rookie pairing Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Isaah Yeo with a big say on the result of this game.   They will face up against fellow NRL rookies Peter Mata’utia and Charly Runciman in what will be an outstanding display of youth and speed.  The Panthers will be keen to shut down Gareth Widdop and Benji Marshall, a partnership that might take some time to fire.

As for the Dragons, consistency is the key.  Big winners at home against the Sharks last round, means absolutely nothing this week against a team who leads the competition and is seeking five consecutive wins.  With no Dugan, it may be that the Dragons try and win the forward battle.  It will be some feat if they can dominate through the middle with an inform Tyrone Peachey, workaholic in Elijah Taylor and James Segeyaro carving them up since starting in replacement of Kevin Kingston.  But it’s certain that Benji Marshall is key to the performance of the Dragons.  He’s still trying to work out how he fits into their line-up.  If the Dragons click an upset is on the cards.  If he struggles through lack of match form, it could be a very long night for the Dragons.

So who wins?

The impressive home record and confidence in the current squad leads to a Panthers victory.  This could be a great night for our outside backs as they try to expose the Dragons in defense, especially targeting Benji Marshall.  Two points count for four with the bye coming up next weekend.

 



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