The ninth placed Penrith Panthers set their sights on securing four wins on the trot when they take on the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Pepper Stadium this Thursday night.

Last Time Out

Penrith managed to propel a highly competitive Gold Coast Titans side by 24-16 last Saturday. Thanks to brilliant performances from centre Waqa Blake who posted a double and gained 199 metres and front rower Reagan Campbell-Gillard who made 28 tackles and gained 181 metres.

The Bulldogs on the other hand had a night to forget against Brisbane last Friday, where they lost by 30 points against a relentless attacking Brisbane outfit. They defended for lengthy periods on their own goal line which proved to be too much pressure to absorb.

Can Penrith continue the hot streak?

The Panthers are definitely the side with all the confidence and formidable form coming into this match. After the first nine rounds of the NRL competition many critics and fans of the game had serious doubts over whether Penrith were up for being a serious finals contender in 2017. Over the last nine matches those doubts have been put to bed with seven victories in nine matches. The key to their resurgence has been there youthful backs that have provided energy and sharpness to their attack. With the omission of Matt Moylan and the possible return of Bryce Cartwright, the Panthers will look for experience campaigners like James Tamou and Peter Wallace to provide leadership when it’s needed in crucial moments of the match. If Penrith come up trumps in this battle then they’re on the right path to injecting themselves as one of the most dangerous teams that could play finals football.

Hasler’s Future and the Bulldogs Distraction

Canterbury will now need to win six from their remaining six games in order to make the finals in 2017. Considering their recent form and attacking woes it seems highly unlikely. They have only scored 252 points from their 18 games this season. That’s 14 points per game on average. Adding to their pain is the speculation around Des Hasler and his future as head coach despite extending his contract by two more years just. Depending on the outcome of the meeting between the Canterbury board and Des Hasler, you would sense once this matter has been resolved it will allow the Bulldogs to concentrate go about their preparations without off field distractions. The Bulldogs have proven that they can hold it together in defence by being one of the better defensive sides located in the bottom eight. If they eradicate handling errors and build a game by gaining repeat sets of six in opposition territory, then Canterbury will be given the perfect pathway to securing an upset victory.

Prediction

The Panthers have a lot riding on this as they are two competition points behind the eighth placed St George Illawarra Dragons. If the Bulldogs can conjure up an upset, it could result in Penrith possibly being two victories behind the Dragones. Despite having James Graham back from injury the Bulldogs might have a difficult time containing the young Penrith players. Penrith have all the form and with the excitement of players like Nathan Cleary, Tyrone Peachey and Reagan Campbell-Gillard. The Panthers should get the two competition points comfortably.

The Panthers by 16

Squads

Penrith Panthers vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Thursday 27 July, 7:50PM at Pepper Stadium

Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Tyrone Peachey 4. Waqa Blake 5. Dallin Watene Zelezniak 6. Tyrone May 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Peter Wallace 10. Regan Campbell-Gillard 11. Corey Harawira 12. Isaah Yeo 13. Moses Leota: Interchange 14. Sione Katoa 15. Leilani Latu 16. Tim Browne 17. James Fisher-Harris Reserves 18. Bryce Cartwright 19. Dean Whare 20. Viliame Kikau 21. Sitaleki Akauola

Bulldogs: 1. William Hopoate 2. Brett Morris 3. Josh Morris 4. Chase Stanley 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Matt Frawley 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Moses Mbye 10. James Graham 11. Josh Jackson 12. Adam Elliot 13. David Klemmer 14. Sam Kasiano 15. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 16. Danny Fualalo 17. Michael Lichaa 19. Francis Tualau 20. Kerrod Holland 21. Asipeli Fine 23. Brenko Lee