FINALS WEEK 3 PREVIEW V WENTWORTHVILLE @ Leichhardt Oval, Sunday 14th September @ 1PM AEST
Minor premiers, Penrith, return to Leichhardt Oval to take on local rivals Wentworthville in what shapes to be another “Battle Of The West” classic this Sunday at 1pm, with a NSW Cup grand final spot to be played at Allianz Stadium next Sunday, up for grabs.
Penrith come into this game having earned the week off with their 2nd consecutive 40+ score-line defeating the Illawarra Cutters 42-6 and have won 21 of 25 games including their last 6 games where they have outscored their opponents 230-56, to confirm their status as the best attacking and defensive team in the competition having scored nearly 32 points per game and conceding around 17 points per game.
Wentworthville, qualified for the finals in 3rd spot bounced back from a week 1 loss to Newcastle to advance to the grand final qualifier showdown against Penrith with a 29-16 win over Wyong. Whilst Wentworthville have one of the poorest defensive records in the NSW Cup, conceding almost 27 points per game their attacking record ranks second only to Penrith with the likes of Hunt, Toutai, Kelly and Pewhairangi in their line-up, having scored over 29 points per game.
Tale Of The Tape:
These two teams have met twice already in 2014 and it was Penrith who prevailed on both occasions – in Round 4, Penrith won convincingly 42-22 at Ringrose Park and repeated the dose in Round 25 at Sportingbet Stadium winning 44-12. Wes Naiqama has featured heavily in both games having scored 38 points from the two games played.
The Panthers are looking for win number 7 in a row since their shock loss to the Newtown Jets back in Round 20 and despite the continuing need for the nucleus of the squad that secured the minor premiership to be playing first grade, the silver lining for Garth Brennan has been the ability of his fringe players to step up in recent games and help ensure that the team plays out the 80 minutes.
Looking across the two teams, despite this being a battle between the two best attacking teams in the NSW Cup the Panthers 17 enjoy a considerable advantage over the Magpies in tries scored – the Panthers backline named for this clash alone has scored 84 tries – seven more than the entire Magpies 17 squad. Of Penrith’s total try tally of 144 for season 2014, the named 17 have scored 107 tries including Nabuli (18), K Naiqama (15), Humble and Blake (both 12), Moss (11), W Naiqama and Capewell (both 8). For Wentworthville 31 of their 17’s 77 tries have come through Fariamo (19) and Hunt (12).
There shouldn’t be too many old fashioned square-ups in this clash with each side fielding just the one player who previously played for the other team. Wentworthville will line up ex-lower grades Panther –Jake Butler-Fleming who has secured a spot on the wing since his move from the Windsor Wolves. For the Panthers, halfback Tom Humble will come up against many of his former Eels team mates.
Panthers: In: Andy Saunders Out: Mitch Clark (dropped)
Despite the injury issues at the club, Garth Brennan has had a settled preparation going into this final, making just the one change with specialist prop, Andy Saunders named on the bench to make just his 2nd appearance at this level in place of Mitch Clark. The named squad for Penrith still includes 8 players with 368 games of combined NRL experience including the likes of the Kevin and Wes Naiqama, Ryan Simpkins, Nathan Smith, Luke Capewell and Humble. Compared to when these teams last met in Round 25, the side looks stronger with the return of Waqa Blake, Kierran Moseley and Tom Eisenhuth.
The team is as follows:
- KIERAN MOSS 2. ETO NABULI 3. WAQA BLAKE 4. KEVIN NAIQAMA 5. WES NAIQAMA
- LUKE CAPEWELL 7. TOM HUMBLE 8. LEILANI LATU 9. KIERRAN MOSELEY
- REAGAN CAMPBELL-GILLARD 11. VAIPUNA TIA-KILIFI 12. NATHAN SMITH 13. RYAN SIMPKINS
INTERCHANGE: 14. PAT HOLLIS 15. LIAM AYOUB 16. TOM EISENHUTH 17. ANDY SAUNDERS
COACH: GARTH BRENNAN
Wentworthville: Nil changes
By comparison, Brett Cook has named the same 17 that defeated Wyong with just one the one positional change with Sam Gorman interchanging with Api Pewhairangi between five eighth and centre respectively, with the named side also having 8 players with 117 games of accumulated NRL experience. Importantly, the Magpies side has been strengthened by the return of NSW Cup player of the year, Bureta Fariamo and his duel on the right with Eto Nabuli will be one of the highlights of the season as the Magpies winger having scored 19 tries, made 26 line breaks and 90 tackle busts to his credit goes up against the Fijian flyer who despite a slow start to the season due to injury has still scored 18 tries to go with the 29 tries scored in his debut season with the Windsor Wolves last year.
The team is as follows:
- JUSTIN HUNT 2. JAKE BUTLER-FLEMING 3. API PEWHAIRANGI 4. VAL TOUTAI 5. BURETA FARIAMO
- SAM GORMAN 7. LUKE KELLY 8. DANIEL ALVARO 9. BEN JONES 10. ISAAC MALIOTA
- PAT MATAELE 12. LORENZO MA’AFU 13. LIONEL O’MALLY
INTERCHANGE: 14. BRENDON MCKINNON 15. NICK KASSIS 16. JOSEPH UALESI 17. DANNY HOWARD
COACH: BRETT COOK
Both out in the backs and up front in the forwards, there are some great match-ups on offer. In the backs there’s the likes of Kieran Moss v Justin Hunt, Kevin Naiqama and Waqa Blake v Api Pewhairangi and Val Toutai but perhaps none better than Tom Humble v Luke Kelly. It’s the NSW Cup’s best running halfback up against the halfback with perhaps the best kicking game in Luke Kelly.
In the forwards, Kierran Moseley v Ben Jones, Reagan Campbell-Gillard v Daniel Alvaro and Nathan Smith v Lorenzo Ma’afu will wet the appetite of those who like a good stoush between opposing forward packs and whoever gains the upper ascendancy will be the key as to which team can best utilise their pacey and skilful backs.
As with season 2013, the top 4 teams have found their way to the penultimate weekend of the finals to determine next week’s grand finalists but while Wentworthville have done well to get this far in the finals series, I expect the Penrith juggernaut to continue to roll on for one more week at least and qualify for the grand final should they play anywhere close to the level that has gotten them this far.
Tip: Panthers by 12.