Sensational against the odds victories in round 3 saw the Dragons and Panther both overcame adversity to produce stirring victories. Attention now turns to an Easter Sunday showdown to further test the credentials of two teams pushing for a top 8 finish in 2016.

LAST TIME OUT

The Dragons are fast becoming the NRL’s “cyclone specialists” having pulled off another gritty win in some of the worst weather in recent memory last Sunday against Souths. The Dragons captured a similar upset win in even worse conditions last Anzac Day in overcoming the Rooster in a match that had to be stopped due to dangerous weather. Playing in such conditions is something the majority of teams don’t do well and requires true grit and determination – often cancelling out the skill aspect of the game. The Dragons have shown they have the heart and determination – now they need to bring that together with the skills required to win on a week to week basis.

The Panthers showed they have a bright future with the promising debut of young 5/8 Te Maire Martin in Round 3 but they also have the ability to make some noise in 2016 following their come from behind victory over the Broncos. Trailing at home against the 2016 Premiership favorites – many thought the match was over, however the Panthers sprung to life in the second half and finished all over the Broncos to record their first win of the year.

KEY BATTLE

A potential dry Sunday afternoon track will likely set the stage for an exciting end to end battle between two teams who have somewhat regained confidence on the back of strong performances last week. Given the overwhelming potential in both teams across the park across the park the second row battle between two of the NRL’s emerging superstars could prove decisive.

Bryce Cartwright is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with. His explosive running, subtle but deceptive footwork and canny ball playing skills have the potential to win games. His opposite number may not have the same play making skills but he does make up for it with explosive line breaking and try scoring potential. Tyson Frizell is a wrecking ball style player with the ability to throw the spectacular offload to put his teammates into the clear. He has the attacking x-factor that the Dragons need dearly this year however he does come with the added risk of simple and untimely mistakes.

The complimentary cast in the second row is where the Panthers will take the edge. Accompanying Cartwright in the Panthers second row is Trent Merrin who will be fired up to have an impact against his former team. Returning to Wollongong for the first time since departing the Dragons at the end of last year Merrin will be keen to deliver on his hefty price tag and re-establish himself as one of the dominate second row forwards in the NRL.

PREDICTION

The head to head history between these two teams is slightly in the Dragons favor – but more or less even. More recently though the Panthers have had the wood on the Dragons winning six of their past seven encounters. The Panthers however have only won 2 of their last 8 matches at WIN Stadium, a ground at which the Dragons always perform strongly.

This will be another tightly fought Sunday afternoon match with both teams sharing similar form lines thus far in 2016. The winner will stamp their Top 8 aspirations as legitimate in 2016 whereas the loser of this match is going to have their work cut out and will need to put a strong run of wins together at some point soon if they are to threaten finals football.

The Dragons victory last Sunday was all grit and determination – coupled with South Sydney’s inability to adapt to the conditions. The Panthers were much more dynamic and impressive in their comeback victory over last year’s runners-up.

The Dragons will be hard to beat at home however expect a Sunday afternoon upset as the Panthers look to have more points in them at this stage if the year. Panthers by 12.

SQUADS

ST GEORGE-ILLAWARRA DRAGONS

1 Josh Dugan

2 Peter Mata’utai

3 Euan Aitkin

4 Timoteo Lafai

5 Jason Nightingale

6 Gareth Widdop (c)

7 Josh McCrone

8 Leeson Ah Mau

9 Mitch Rein

10 Russel Packer

11 Tyson Frizell

12 Joel Thompson

13 Jack de Belin

INTERCHANGE

14 Ben Creagh

15 Mike Cooper

16 Will Matthews

17 Siliva Havili

 

 

PENRITH PANTHERS

1 Will Smith

2 Josh Mansour

3 Waqa Blake

4 Peta Hiku

5 Dallin Watene-Zeleziak

6 Te Maire Martin

7 Jamie Soward

8 Sam McKendry

9 Peter Wallace (c)

10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard

11 Bryce Cartwright

12 Isaah Yeo

13 Trent Merrin

INTERCHANGE

14 Tyrone Peachey

15 Leilani Latu

16 Suaia Matagi

17 Elijah Taylor

18 James Fisher-Harris