ROUND 15 v NORTH SYDNEY BEARS @ North Sydney Oval, Sunday 22nd June @ 3:00PM
The 1st placed Penrith Panthers are looking for their 8th win in a row having won 11 of their last 12 games when they take on a North Sydney Bears side desperate to get their season going again having languished in last spot for the majority of the season to date after being a perennial powerhouse in this competition in recent times. This match represents the first of 3 games on the road including subsequent games versus the Warriors & the high-flying Wests Tigers.
The Bears were heavily defeated by 11th placed Manly 54-22 last start & will be keen to put on a strong showing for their loyal fans at their iconic home ground, North Sydney Oval & win their first game since Round 11.
The Panthers although likely to go into this game as heavy favourites will need to improve on their recent efforts against the Cutters (twice) & the Roos to not only make it 8 wins on the trot but also prove to the rest of the competition that they are worthy favourites to win the NSW Cup in 2014.
Tale Of The Tape:
This is the first meeting between the two sides in 2014, previously the Panthers played the Bears through their feeder club, the Windsor Wolves & in 2013 it was Wolves who prevailed on both occasions winning 28-24 (R15 – then Centrebet Stadium) & 48-28 (R23 – Windsor). North Sydney went on to make the preliminary final but in 2014 with a plethora of departures from the playing roster as the salary cap bit hard into South Sydney, the Bears are going through a rebuilding stage having to blood several players from Souths’ Holden Cup squad.
A win for the Bears could close the gap to 12th placed Canterbury to just 1 point provided they lose to the Knights away from home. The Panthers on the other hand will continue to set the benchmark for 2014 if they defeat Norths with a season best 8 wins in a row in the process. A win will see them maintain their spot at the top of the ladder alongside Wentworthville but a loss on the other hand could see them slip as low as 3rd should they lose by 22 or more points so there is plenty to play for both sides.
A) Team Stats:
Attack: Panthers 29.14 ppg (2nd); Bears 18.57 ppg (12th)
Defense: Panthers 19.14 ppg (1st); Bears 31 ppg (13th)
Differential: Panthers 10 ppg (1st); Bears -12.43 ppg (13th)
B) Player Stats:
NRL Experience (based on listed teams): Panthers 13 (604 games) Bears 4 (36 games)
Try Scorers: Panthers – K Naiqama 11 (5th), E Nabuli 9 (=6th); Bears – C Johnston 9 (=6th)
Points: Panthers – W Smith 72 (7th)
Tackles: Panthers – R Simpkins 451 (4th), K Moseley 442 (5th); Bears – M Hyland 550 (1st), N Neale 514 (2nd)
Runs: Panthers – S Anderson 186 (4th)
Hit Ups: Panthers – S Anderson 135 (7th), R Campbell-Gillard 127 (8th); Bears – N Neale 126 (9th)
Line Breaks: Panthers – E Nabuli 14 (4th), K Naiqama 13 (5th)
Ball Receipts: Panthers – K Moseley 990 (2nd)
It should be noted that the NRL experience in the Bears side will dramatically improve should the likes of Nathan Merritt, Lote Tuqiri, Ben Lowe, Joe Picker, Tom Burgess, Luke Burgess &/or Cameron McInnes get late call ups which wouldn’t surprise given Souths also have the bye in the NRL.
With Penrith having the bye, coach Garth Brennan gets two big inclusions this week with Kevin Naiqama & Bryce Cartwright returning to the side. Kevin replaces Tom Eisenhuth on the wing with the latter included on a five man interchange bench while Bryce Cartwright will start in the back row which sees Ben Murdoch-Masila also going back to the bench. Shuan Spence has been ruled out due to concussion sustained in last week’s win over the Cutters allowing Anthony Cherrington to hold his spot on the bench. Tim Grant & Kevin Kingston again have been named to play this week, while there is speculation that Jamal Idris could be a late inclusion in today’s side.
The team is as follows:
1. KIERAN MOSS 2. ETO NABULI 3. WAQA BLAKE 4. WES NAIQAMA 5. KEVIN NAIQAMA
6. WILL SMITH 7. TOM HUMBLE 8. SAM ANDERSON 9. KEVIN KINGSTON 10. TIM GRANT
11. BRYCE CARTWRIGHT 12. MATT ROBINSON 13. RYAN SIMPKINS
INTERCHANGE: 14. BEN MURDOCH-MASILA 16. VAIPUNA TIA KILIFI 17. REAGAN CAMPBELL-GILLARD
18. ANTHONY CHERRINGTON 22. TOM EISENHUTH (1 TO OMIT)
COACH: GARTH BRENNAN
For the Bears, coach Wayne Lambkin has named a youthful looking side with just 4 players with NRL experience named including the exciting Luke Keary playing just his second game back from a lengthy injury. However it wouldn’t surprise to see the likes of Nathan Merritt, Lote Tuqiri, Cameron McInnes, Luke / Tom Burgess, Ben Lowe & Joe Picker as possible late inclusions. Ex-Wolves Blake South & Neccrom Areaiiti are unavailable for a re-match against their former team-mates, thou Kane Morgan has been named to play at this stage.
The team is as follows:
1. KANE MORGAN 2. MARK O’DARE 3. JOE ULUIBAU 4. JACKSON WILLIAMS 5. CURTIS JOHNSTON
6. JORDAN WORBOYS 7. LUKE KEARY 8. NATHANIEL NEALE 9. KURT ALDRIDGE 10. BRAD LUPI
11. JESSE ROBERTS 12. CHRIS GREVSMUHL 13. MATT HYLAND
INTERCHANGE: 14. STEVE TAVITA 15. JOSH TOOLE 16. DUNCAN LOW 17. JACKSON GARLICK
18. JOHN KITE
COACH: WAYNE LAMBKIN
The Panthers when you look across the teams named look to have too much class for what will no doubt be a fired up North Sydney Bears side looking to getting their season back on track. On paper at least the Panthers are nearly a 24 ppg better side than the Bears & with their 13 players with NRL experience compared to the Bears 4 including a forwards pack that wouldn’t look out of place in the NRL & if the Panthers are serious about winning this title, then they should be putting away sides like Norths very comfortably.
However the Panthers need to shoe such form sooner rather than later given they have played themselves in & out of games to win their past three games by a collective margin of 15 points. Discipline or lack of continues to plague the Panthers given they have been soundly beaten in the penalty counts in their last 5 games which has contributed to their inability to put teams away.
Add the factor that the Norths side that will take the field will likely be significantly strengthened by the inclusion of several fringe NRL players from Souths. The Panthers are still entitled to be hot favourites but need to play the game for the eighty minutes as their lapses in concentration & discipline in recent weeks having nearly resulted in losses to the Cutters (twice) & the Roos & despite the fact they should be beating sides like Norths by 24 points or more, I think a spirited performance by the Bears may see the Panthers win this one by 10.