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2014 NRL Round 12 Preview, Panthers Vs Eels – QLDPanthers

Squads

Panthers: Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Dean Whare, Jamal Idris, David Simmons, Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace, Sam McKendry, James Segeyaro, Brent Kite, Sika Manu, Elijah Taylor, Adam Docker. Interchange: Tim Grant, Jeremy Latimore, Tyrone Peachey, Lewis Brown, Matt Robinson

Eels: Jarryd Hayne (c), Semi Radradra, Will Hopoate, Ryan Morgan, Ken Sio, Corey Norman, Chris Sandow, Tim Mannah (c), Nathan Peats, Darcy Lussick, David Gower, Manu Mau, Joseph Paulo. Interchange: Pauli Pauli, Peni Terepo, Junior Paulo, Mitch Allgood, Lee Mossop

Kiwi duo return, Kingston unavailable

Penrith welcome back Kiwi duo Lewis Brown and Elijah Taylor from injury for this big derby day clash against Parramatta at SportingBet Stadium on Friday night.  Brown returns after sustaining a pectoral injury in our loss to South Sydney in round 6 while Taylor is expected to return after a grade 2 medial tear against Cronulla a month back.  Penrith have opted to ‘rest’ Kevin Kingston again this week.  James Segeyaro has played well in his absence and will be looking for a big game this weekend.   Matt Robinson is the 18th man to cover for Taylor which means Isaah Yeo is relegated to VB NSW Cup.

Updated injury list courtesy of www.penrithpanthers.com.au

KEVIN KINGSTON: Tore a ligament in his ankle in round 8. He will be rested for another week

SHAUN SPENCE: Had surgery on his knee. He will be out for another week or so.

ISAAC JOHN: Ruptured his achilles in round 9. Out for the season.

GEORGE JENNINGS: He dislocated his elbow in our Auckland Nines quarter final and underwent surgery to repair the damage. Out for the season

Will the Hayne plane play?

If you were a New South Wales fan you wanted to ‘kiss’ Jarryd Hayne for his outstanding Origin performance against Queensland on Wednesday night, but you were secretly hoping he wouldn’t play this Friday night against Penrith.  Media reports suggest today that Hayne will be rested for Friday night’s game.  If Hayne misses the game you would almost think Will Hopoate will play at fullback and Willie Tonga to get a reprieve after being replaced by Ryan Morgan.  Lee Mossop was originally named as the eighteenth man.  Mossop comes to the Eels from Super League heavyweights Wigan but hasn’t been able to make the NRL side despite playing well with Wentworthville in VB NSW Cup.

Is there any real story when a team trains behind closed doors?

Rugby League Week’s “The Mole” revealed on Thursday around lunchtime that Penrith locked the gates for their final training session before the Eels clash

It could be one of two reasons.  The first and most logical is that the team is focusing on a very important clash in a local derby as they look to stay in the top four approaching the important mid-season period of the competition.  The other possible reason is to protect Josh Mansour, who has a big decision to make about whether he will transfer to Canberra at the end of this season.  Mansour has been in fine form and any media attention about Sauce’s future could disrupt the Panthers on the eve of this match.  I’m not going to criticise management either way.  The team’s professionalism has shone through this year and was best demonstrated in Melbourne when the club sacked James Roberts on the eve of the match, and Jamie Soward was a late withdrawal from the game.  Penrith came within a whisker of victory.  This 2014 side is one of the most promising sides the club has put on the field in a decade.

Derby’s bring out the best in both sides

Earlier this season Parramatta demolished Penrith in a polished display 32-16 at Pirtek Stadium.  This game saw the return of Chris Sandow to the Eels and despite early jitters, he settled back into the top grade during the second half where the home side dominated.

While the Panthers won 44-12 on Matt Moylan’s debut in the National Rugby League last season at home, Parramatta have won five of the last nine clashes at Penrith.  Chris Sandow’s field goal secured the Eels 19-18 win on June 23, 2012.  And who will forget Luke Walsh’s field goal on July 16, 2011 that spoiled Nathan Hindmarsh’s 300th game celebrations as the Panthers got home in a nail biter 23-22.

It’s quite clear on this years home and away record that Penrith deserve favourite status leading into this clash.  Five matches for only one loss against South Sydney, compared to Parramatta’s one win and three losses when they’ve gone on the road this year.

What could happen…

There’s no doubt both teams will be looking to play with intensity and desperation off the back of the State of Origin game in Brisbane on Wednesday night.  The footy starts to heat up at this time of the year and the contenders start to appear as the season approaches the half way mark.

Penrith have put to rest concerns that they can’t score points by averaging twenty-six points in their last three outings.  Josh Mansour has led a solid back line as he looks to challenge the Eels through midfield.  Matt Moylan continues to show confidence at the back and Dave Simmons comes off a double following a strong effort against Canberra a fortnight ago.  So I expect points to flow for the home side with Peter Wallace being instrumental.  Could he be a likely replacement for Trent Hodgkinson in Origin II if he’s stamped out because of the lifting tackle?  Defensively, Penrith have been solid and their efforts in the final stages of the Raiders win will boost the confidence of this tight knit squad.  Adam Docker could be the forward to inspire with some solid hitting.

Parramatta have turned the corner under Brad Arthur and they too have been very impressive in averaging thirty-one points in their last three games, mainly helped by wins over Cronulla (42-24) and a shut out of the Dragons (36-0) at home.  The clash of the back lines is mouthwatering.  Semi Radradra is the lead tryscorer this season on eleven, and Jarryd Hayne is on nine but likely to be rested.  Parramatta won their last clash against Penrith, set up by dominating in the forward pack.  They could target Penrith up the middle again.  Nathan Peats was able to run free at dummy half and Manu Mau played well above his NRL experience in victory.  But if Hayne misses the game, one wonders if the Eels can maintain that magic touch.

So who wins?

The heart says Penrith and the head also says Penrith.  These boys don’t deserve to be playing in front of nothing but a full house of Panther fans.  They’ve got to third place and the boys deserve the game day support.  Make sure the Eels fans don’t dominate at Penrith… make your voice count!

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