In the lone Sunday fixture taking place this weekend the Penrith Panthers host Cronulla Sharks at Pepper Stadium.  If anything is to go by when they met on the ANZAC Weekend, we’re in for a thrilling contest.

LAST TIME OUT

Penrith went down the Western Motorway to ANZ Stadium to face Wests Tigers.  Pre-match hype surrounded whether Matt Moylan or James Tedesco would win the number one jumper for New South Wales.  Tedesco coming out on top only for Moylan to replace Adam Reynolds late this week in the squad.  Looking in control leading 14-2, Wests Tigers piled on 32 points in a forty minute spell.  Despite late tries to Trent Merrin and Isaah Yeo, the scoreline favoured the Tigers 34-26.  Zak Hardaker’s debut was limited and without any initial impact as he finds his feet in the NRL.  A little sole searching was required at the foot of the mountains mid-week leading into their clash with the high flying Sharks.

Cronulla were looking to recording a club record twelfth consecutive win when they faced Parramatta at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Saturday night. It was a night where Semi Radradra controversially was selected for the Eels despite domestic violence charges laid against him in the week leading up to the match.  An upset was on the cards with the Eels leading 18-0 after 23 minutes but just like in the Panthers versus Tigers game, the encounter took a mood swing as the Sharks put on 28 points in 48 minutes of football. Despite a late scare with Bevan French completing a hat-trick, it was Sosaia Feki who scored the match winner to get the Sharks home 34-24.

KEY BATTLES

Keep an eye on the second row forwards in this game.  The experience of Luke Lewis and Jason Bukuya coming up against the up and coming Isaah Yeo and James Fisher-Harris. Fisher-Harris quite brutal in their last encounter scoring a double.  The game most remembered for the Luke Lewis’ crunching tackle on Matt Moylan.

No lack of experience at hooker with Michael Ennis and Peter Wallace to have a big say in this game.  Without James Maloney you would expect Ennis to take on more kicking out of dummy half to try and pin Penrith down in their on half.  Expect the same from Wallace as he attempts to give his side a 40/20 advantage.  Most importantly it will be their role of servicing the forwards which will play a huge factor.  While the backs score the points it’s the forwards which provide the backbone to victory.

PREDICTION

Cronulla can’t be discounted despite losing playmaker James Maloney, captain Paul Gallen, Wade Graham, Jack Bird and Andrew Fifita to NSW Origin.  The strike power of Valentine Holmes and Ben Barba will make Panther fans nervous after leaking points last weekend.  However a big game from Bryce Cartwright and direction from Nathan Cleary give Penrith a big chance of ending the Sharks twelve game winning streak.

Panthers by 2

SQUADS

Panthers: 1. Matt Moylan* 2. Zak Hardaker 3. Waqa Blake 4. Tyrone Peachey 5. Dallin Watene Zelezniak 6. Bryce Cartwright 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Leilani Latu 9. Peter Wallace 10. Regan Campbell-Gillard 11. Isaah Yeo 12. James Fisher-Harris 13. Trent Merrin. Interchange: 14. Suaia Matagi 15. Jeremy Latimore 16. Chris Grevsmuhl 17. William Smith

Sharks: 1. Ben Barba 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Ricky Leutele 4. Gerard Beale 5. Valentine Holmes 6. Fa’amanu Brown 7. Chad Townsend 8. Matt Prior 9. Michael Ennis 10. Sam Tagataese 11. Luke Lewis 12. Jayson Bukuya 13. Chris Heighington. Interchange: 14. Matt McIlwrick 15. Jesse Sene-Lefao 16. Kurt Capewell 17. Joseph Paulo

*Matt Moylan named at fullback but has been called up to NSW Origin side.  Zak Hardaker a chance of playing fullback with possibly a recall for George Jennings or Dylan Edwards from NSW Cup.

Venue: Pepper Stadium
Kick-off: Sunday July 10 at 4pm AEST