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NRL MATCH PREVIEW: Penrith Panthers vs Cronulla Sharks

SQUADS

Panthers: Matt Moylan, Dallin Watene Zelezniak, Dean Whare, Jamal Idris, Kevin Naiqama, Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace, Nigel Plum, James Segeyaro, Brent Kite, Bryce Cartwright, Isaah Yeo, Elijah Taylor. Interchange: Lewis Brown, Jeremy Latimore, Adam Docker, Sam McKendry, Sika Manu

Sharks: Michael Gordon, Sosaia Feki, Jonathan Wright, Ricky Leutele, Jacob Gagan, Fa’amanu Brown, Jeff Robson, Andrew Fifita, Michael Lichaa, Bryce Gibbs, Luke Lewis, Wade Graham, Anthony Tupou. Interchange: Pat Politoni, Chris Heighington, Tinirau Arona, Sam Tagataese, Tim Robinson, Matt Prior

WALLY BACK FOR ‘ROAD TRIP’

Great to see the Penrith Panthers take their home game to Bathurst and support country footy.  Carrington Park holds around thirteen thousand fans and hopefully by kickoff Saturday afternoon the ground will be at capacity.

In team news, Peter Wallace has been selected to return to the National Rugby League side after a leg injury he sustained in Penrith’s big win over Wests Tigers on July 6.  It was initially feared that Wally would be out for six weeks but he has progressed well enough to be named this week.  It’s a big boost after Penrith’s directional play went missing in last week’s loss against the Roosters.

Moylan this week is named at fullback on the team sheet despite playing that role last weekend.  Lewis Brown and Adam Docker are selected to start from the bench with Isaah Yeo to start in the back row alongside Bryce Cartwright.  Sika Manu is named in jumper twenty-three in an eighteen man squad.  Josh Mansour is still missing through injury.

Plenty of rumours flying around that this squad won’t necessarily be the way the team lines up.  We will know by around 2pm Saturday as to the final squad.

A huge game for Penrith who can consolidate second place with a win, and potentially could be two points away from the magic thirty point mark to make the final eight as they head into the final six games of the season.

PANTHERS INJURY UPDATE (VIA PENRITHPANTHERS.COM.AU)

TYRONE PEACHEY: Suffered a pec tear and will have surgery this week. He is out for the season.

JOSH MANSOUR: Tore the ligaments in his ankle. He will be out for another couple of 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

MICHAEL ‘SHUNTER’ GREGSON: He broke his ankle in the half time entertainment.  He is out for the season.

SHARKS LOOK FOR CLEAN SWEEP

Cronulla head into the Bathurst clash confident they can upset the Panthers as they did on April 26 when they won 24-20. Ex-Panther Wade Graham leads the side that is relatively unchanged from their dismal effort against North Queensland last Friday night.  Siosaia Vave drops out of the side.  Chris Heighington, Sam Tagataese and Matt Prior return for the Sharks on an extended bench.  It’s quite an extended injury list for the Sharks.  Paul Gallen (bicep), John Morris (neck), David Fifita (foot), Eric Grothe Jnr (back) and the retirement of Beau Ryan.  And if that’s wasn’t enough Todd Carney’s sacking.  To be fair, the Sharks were going well in a two week period knocking off Brisbane and Sydney Roosters.  Losses to Newcastle and the Cowboys in back to back home games leaves the club from the Shire in danger of ending up with the wooden spoon.

RECENT HISTORY SUGGESTS A SHARKS WIN…

Cronulla threaten to continue to be Penrith’s bogey side this Saturday.  The Sharks have won four of  the last five matches against the Panthers.  But it’s much even over the last ten matches with Cronulla ahead six to four.  This will be the ninety-fifth time these two sides have played each other, with Cronulla recording forty-eight wins, Penrith forty-two with four drawn matches.

Looking to the stats for this year, and Penrith have won seven eight of eight games at home and despite playing in Bathurst will go in as favourites to win.  Cronulla aren’t so good on the road with two wins from seven matches, ironically their last two road trips have resulted in wins.  It’s a massive gap in defense.  Cronulla concede almost twenty-five points each game, and Penrith just eighteen.  And in attack it’s Penrith scoring a shade under twenty-two points compared to Cronulla’s fourteen.  These stats put the game in Penrith’s favour.

WHAT COULD HAPPEN

Penrith will come out very keen and proactive to put a score on Cronulla.  The bounce-back factor of Penrith has been an improvement on previous seasons where they would record back-to-back-to-back losses.  Penrith will feel more structured with Wallace and Soward to control the game in the halves.  Last week it seemed that Matt Moylan was trying to be involved in everything and looked a little out of sorts.  This week he should be able to settle into playing his normal role.  Expect Moylan and Whare to combine pretty well as we attack the Sharks right hand defense.  The forward pack will be looking to pick up their game after the Roosters trampled over the top of them last week.  Bryce Cartwright played his best National Rugby League game last week.  Expect him to create second phase play that will catch out the weak Sharks defense.  This just might be the game where Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Kevin Naiqama are on the end of some good scoring moves.  The key to victory is to tighten up the defense, and be patient in attack with the knowledge Soward and Wallace are back together and will create the opportunities.

As for Cronulla it’s about mental attitude as to how they will go.  It’s been a horrible last six weeks for the club despite winning back to back.  Remember this team went three games without victory before their Broncos win.  Penrith will be keen to shut down former club mates Flash Gordon, Wade Graham and Luke Lewis.  Penrith will treat these blokes with plenty of respect.  The game just gets a lot harder to win without Todd Carney if it’s for the experience he brings to the side.  This leaves a lot of pressure on Jeff Robson to dominate at halfback and get the side moving forward.  Fa’amanu Brown is still finding his feet at number six.  Cronulla have found a good finisher in Jacob Gagan on the wing and will face Watene-Zelezniak in the head to head battle.  Chris Heighington and Sam Tagataese are welcome returns to the side for their experience.  Michael Lichhaa is a player of the future at hooker and will duel with our own livewire James Segeyaro.  Hard to see where the Sharks will go in this game given the emotional roller coaster ride they are on.

PENRITH TO WIN

Most punters are expecting a Panthers win.  All Panther fans are ready to collect their winnings and already think their team is over the line in this one.  Penrith should be able to lift and prove to not only their supporters, but also the National Rugby League community that they deserve to make the finals.  They’re still the doubters out there, but hey look at the Bulldogs last weekend in their massive loss to Wests Tigers.  I’d personally be happy with a one-point win, but the Panthers should be in a good frame of mind to post a score.



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