Penrith earned a spot in Week Two of the finals defeating Manly 22-10 in controversial circumstances at Allianz Stadium. But now they must travel to Brisbane to play a Broncos side who were beaten by a bit of Latrell Mitchell brilliance near the buzzer. The Panthers will have all the confidence in the world coming off a win but does that guarantee them progression to the preliminary final?
If the Panthers are to earn the right to face the Melbourne Storm for a place in the Grand Final they are obviously going to have to beat Brisbane in Brisbane. But in 12 visits to Suncrop Stadium in the NRL era they have only left victorious four times. In 2003, 2007, 2010, and most recently in 2016.
In 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2017 they have been defeated. They have been heavy victories away, scoring a combined 303 points to 196 from the 12 matches, including 58-24, and 48-12 wins.
Not to mention, seven of Penrith’s 11 defeats came away from Pepper Stadium this season. A statistic that may decrease some of the confidence they have.
That’s not all the Broncos have in their favour this week. Nine of their sixteen victories this season came at home (including a win over Penrith).
The Broncos finished in third which is considered quite a lucky number in the NRL. The premiership winning team has finished third on five occasions, including in the past three seasons, and the team that has finished third has only been eliminated by a team who finished lower than third on five occasions, most recently in 2013 when Newcastle knocked out the Storm which sounds like a weird sentence four years later.
While these stats alone won’t get the Broncos over the line, history is in their favour. Wayne Bennett’s men have suffered a couple of key injuries and have lost two in their past three matches. Compared to Penrith who have lost just once since the beginning of July and are just about at full strength.
There are many key battles which could decide the semi-final on the field. From the forward packs, the halves battle between Anthony Milford and Nathan Cleary, and Penrith’s Tyrone Peachey against Broncos speedster and leading try scorer James Roberts, who will be looking to bounce back after he was shoved to the side as Latrell Mitchell scored the winning try for the Roosters last week.
Brisbane finished third for a reason and they will look to avoid becoming the first team to exit the finals in week two after finished third since the Storm in 2013, with the hopes of versing Craig Bellamy’s side for a spot in the final.
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