Date: Monday May 18 2015
Venue: Brookvale Oval
Kick-Off: 7pm (local)
Sea Eagles: 1. Brett Stewart, 2. Jorge Taufua, 3. Jamie Lyon, 4. Steve Matai, 5. Peta Hiku, 6. Tom Symonds, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Jake Trbojevic, 9. Matt Ballin ©, 10. Luke Burgess, 11. Blake Leary, 12. Justin Horo, 13. Dunamis Lui, 14. Feleti Mateo, 15. Willie Mason, 16. Josh Starling, 17. Ligi Sao, 18. James Hasson, 20, Tony Satini.
Coach – Geoff Toovey
Dragons: 1. Matt Moylan, 2. George Jennings, 3. Waqa Blake, 4. Dallin Watene Zelezniak, 5. David Simmons, 6. Apisai Koroisau, 7. Jamie Soward, 8. Nigel Plum, 9. James Segeyaro, 10. Sam McKendry, 11. Lewis Brown, 12. Isaah Yeo, 13. Elijah Taylor, 14. Bryce Cartwright, 15. Jeremy Latimore, 16. Sika Manu, 17. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 18. Will Smith.
Coach – Ivan Cleary
Few would have predicted that we’d be looking at number eight on the ladder coming up against number 16 in this game nine rounds in, but that’s where we are heading into Monday Night Football this week.
The Sea Eagles to the shock of everyone are languishing at the bottom of the table in 16th with three wins from nine contests. There was encouraging signs from Manly last week however, as they chewed up and spat out the Knights 30-10 at Brookvale. Steve Matai returns to the side from suspension, his name instantly gives a more intimidating look on the team sheet, but they remain without gun half Kieran Foran.
Penrith know all about injuries, perhaps better than any side, and while they’re still absent some big names in the likes of Dean Whare and Josh Mansour, but their talisman James Segeyaro is back in the side which will provide a monumental lift to the side in all facets. Off the back of their courageous 2014 campaign, the Panthers came into the year with high expectations that they as yet have not been able to live up to, injuries have played a large part in that. They were competitive again the Broncos in Suncorp last week, going down 8-5, but failing to score a try generally won’t get you a win, and the loss took the Panthers record to 4-5.
With the departure of Jarryd Hayne, there’s been plenty of conjecture about who will fill the void for New South Wales at fullback and while most seem to be settling on Josh Dugan to play the custodial role, this game features a duel between two sublime New South Wales fullbacks in Brett Stewart and Matt Moylan. In Stewart, we have one of the most potent try scorers the game has ever seen, who at age 30 has played Origin, played for his country, and won multiple premierships. In Moylan, we have a supremely gifted 23 year old with the world at his feet, already two games for City, an NRL All Star appearance, and a spot in the Kangaroos train on side.
There’s a tantalising clash in the centres that features a similar narrative. The Sea Eagles combination of Jamie Lyon and Steve Matai is as accomplished as you could ask for. Again multiple premierships, and a long list of New South Wales, Australia, New Zealand appearances. The Panthers young duo of Dallin Watene Zelezniak and Waqa Blake, just 19 and 20 years old, are flourishing in their young careers, DWZ already named to appear for the Kiwis, injury the only thing preventing him from being a test match player already at such a young age while Blake has been dubbed “the next Greg Inglis”.
The recipe is an exciting won, some of the best backs of the past decade, against a trio who figure to be among the biggest stars of the next ten years.
For the Penrith youngsters however, they face an incredibly difficult task in Manly at Brookvale, it doesn’t get much tougher. They Sea Eagles may be old, but there’s plenty of gas left in the tank, particularly on that ground. I’m not ready to write Manly off, even if their forward pack leaves a lot to be desired and they should bring plenty of enthusiasm with them after such a sterling performance last round.
Prediction: Sea Eagles to cover the -2.5 spread.