After a stunning comeback win last week, the Penrith Panthers return home to Panthers Stadium to face the Canberra Raiders on Sunday afternoon.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Panthers were awful for the opening 65 minutes of their game against the Sea Eagles last week, before coming back from an 18-point deficit to secure a miraculous 28-24 win. They scored four tries in just seven minutes to avoid falling to five losses in their last six games. The Origin period seems to have affected a number of their key players, their form dropping over the last two months, but that comeback win might be just what they need to get their season back on track.
A week after losing to the Sharks in very controversial circumstances, the Raiders were simply no match for the Storm in a 44-10 thrashing. They’re one of the best attacking sides in the competition but just never had the opportunity to build any pressure as the Storm dominated from start to finish. They need to put that performance behind them quickly as they face the Panthers who will be looking for a strong finish to the season leading up to finals.
The Panthers are unchanged this week, however Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been named in the reserves and is a chance to come back into the side.
Aidan Sezer returns at five-eighth, pushing Blake Austin into the centres and Elliott Whitehead back into the second row. Iosia Soliola moves back to the front row, with Luke Bateman returning to the bench. Brad Abbey and Nick Cotric swap between fullback and wing and Shannon Boyd returns from injury off the bench. Jack Murchie and Liam Knight have both been dropped back to the reserves.
The Panthers and Raiders met back in Round 14, the Panthers taking the two points when Nathan Cleary slotted a late field goal just two days after featuring in State of Origin. The Raiders will be looking for redemption but might be low on confidence after two tough losses in a row.
The Panthers have to come out much stronger than they did a week ago. The Raiders are a dangerous attacking side and if the Panthers come out flat they will be punished. James Maloney has been the first to admit his form hasn’t been up to scratch after leading New South Wales to an Origin series win, and the Panthers need to him to return to his best.
The Raiders need to put a disappointing fortnight behind them and put all their focus into this upcoming match. Aidan Sezer returns and should provide some much needed direction and composure. The Panthers are strong finishers so if the Raiders are leading late it’ll be up to Sezer to finish the game off strong.
The match-up to watch in this game will be in the halves. The Raiders’ halves have been criticised all year, as time and again they have failed to close out games, one of those occasions being the last time these two sides faced. Sezer and Sam Williams need to take control late and own the game if they want to walk away winners.
The Panthers pairing of Maloney and Cleary seem to have been nursing an Origin hangover, struggling to put together complete 80-minute performances, but the more time they spend and train with the team can only help. They are the key to any premiership chances the Panthers hold, and they need to return to the form that got them selected for the Blues.
The Raiders have scored the second-most points (458) in the competition, but their defence has struggled all year, with only the Titans, Sea Eagles and Knights conceding more points.
Penrith Panthers: 1 Tyrone Peachey, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Waqa Blake, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 Moses Leota, 9 Sione Katoa, 10 James Tamou, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 James Fisher-Harris
Interchange: 14 Tyrone May, 15 Trent Merrin, 16 Jack Hetherington, 17 Corey Harawira-Naera
Reserves: 18 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 19 Kaide Ellis, 20 Christian Crichton, 21 Wayde Egan
Canberra Raiders: 1 Nick Cotric, 2 Brad Abbey, 3 Blake Austin, 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Aidan Sezer, 7 Sam Williams, 8 Iosia Soliola, 9 Josh Hodgson, 10 Junior Paulo, 11 Joseph Tapine, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Josh Papalii
Interchange: 14 Dynamis Lui, 15 Shannon Boyd, 16 Siliva Havili, 17 Luke Bateman
Reserves: 18 Liam Knight, 19 Jack Murchie, 20 Makahesi Makatoa, 21 Emre Guler
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 5th August
Venue: Panthers Stadium
Kick-off: 4:10pm AEDT
WHO WILL WIN?
If the Panthers want to be treated as a serious premiership contender, this is a match they have to win. They’re at home where they’ve been strong all year, and should have more motivation than the Raiders who are down on confidence.
Panthers by 8