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RD 16 MATCH PREVIEW: PENRITH PANTHERS VS NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS

SQUADS

Warriors: Sam Tomkins, David Fusitua, Konrad Hurrell, Dane Nielsen, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Nathan Friend, Sam Rapira, Jayson Bukuya, Simon Mannering, Sebastine Ikahihifo. Interchange: Feleti Mateo, Suaia Matagi, Ben Henry, Charlie Gubb

Panthers: Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Dean Whare, Isaah Yeo, Kevin Naiqama, Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace, Sam McKendry, James Segeyaro, Brent Kite, Sika Manu, Elijah Taylor, Adam Docker. Interchange: Tyrone Peachey, Jeremy Latimore, Nigel Plum, Lewis Brown, Bryce Cartwright

Freshened Panthers may welcome back Idris

Penrith enjoyed the week off with their second bye, but surrendered top spot on the National Rugby League table to Manly by the barest of margins on for and against.  This week they cross the ditch to New Zealand and could welcome back Jamal Idris.  Idris returned to rugby league last weekend as our VB NSW Cup side continued their golden run with victory over North Sydney.  There’s speculation he will return and if he does it could be at the expense of Kevin Naiqama.  If the news is correct, I’m glad Isaah Yeo is still in the squad as he’s been good for us in Idris’ absense.

Adam Docker returns to the side after missing our latest win against St George-Illawarra Dragons which means Tyrone Peachey will start from the bench, and Bryce Cartwright will be the shadow player for this match.

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

DAVE SIMMONS: Tore the medial ligament in his knee and will be out for another 4 weeks.

NATHAN SMITH: Fractured his T3 vertabrae and will be out for 3 weeks

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

Warriors looking for another big scalp

New Zealand Warriors go into this game full of confidence after knocking off Brisbane Broncos last Saturday 19-10.  They sit in tenth spot on the ladder and just two points outside the eight.  After Matt Elliott walked out of the club, it’s taken some time for the side to adjust to Andrew McFadden’s coaching but the signs are good early in his tenure.  The only change this week was forced, with Ngani Laumape out suspended and Dane Nielsen his replacement.  They have their fair share of players on the injury list which includes Thomas Leuluai, Glen Fisiiahi, Jerome Ropati and Ben Matulino.  The Warriors still can’t be taken lightly as they seek back to back wins against top eight teams in consecutive week.

Panthers looking to extend record against Warriors

Sunday’s game will be the thirty-fourth time these two sides have met, with the Panthers winning seventeen, New Zealand fourteen, and three draws.  Penrith have won the last three with their biggest win against the Warriors 62-6 recorded on May 18 2013.  In their last meeting, Penrith travelled to Auckland in round 23 last year and recorded a 28-24 victory.   Josh Mansour and David Simmons grabbing doubles.

What could happen…

There’s no doubt in my mind that these two teams can pile on the points.  Both teams possess enough talent in the halves to make this happen.

Panther fans continue to sing the praises of Peter Wallace and Jamie Soward and you can see the improvement from early on in the season to now, where Penrith appeared to struggle with scoring points but have averaged thirty points per game in their last five matches.  They will provide attacking chances out wide for Josh Mansour and Kevin Naiqama.  In the corresponding game last year it was the wingers who got the tries, and with erratic Manu Vatuvei and unknown David Fusitua their opposites I feel Penrith will try and get the ball out to the flanks and expose their opponents.

On the other hand, New Zealand Warriors have Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend as their halves pairing.  Johnson signed a lucrative contract with the club before the season started while Townsend was just looking to break into regular National Rugby League footy after being a hit at VB NSW Cup level.  And while Johnson provides the spark, Townsend’s role can’t be underestimated.  They won’t be afraid to spread the ball out to Vatuvei and I’m pretty sure they will look to veteran skipper Simon Mannering to make inroads up the middle.

The battle of the forwards will be where the game will be essentially won.  James Segeyaro continues to keep Kevin Kingston out of the line-up and for good reason.  The ability to break the game open against either lazy, or tiring opposition packs and the Warriors are capable of making these types of lapses.  Brent Kite, Sika Manu, Elijah Taylor all of international experience.  Taylor should enjoy playing against his old club for the first time since his move to Penrith.  For the Warriors as mentioned Mannering will be the ‘go to’ forward but Jacob Lillyman and Nathan Friend have to step up and produce the goods against a very good Panthers pack.

If all things are even with the starting line-ups for each team, it could be the benches that are the key to victory.  Tyrone Peachey is in fantastic form, Jeremy Latimore has been a solid performer.  Nigel Plum can be injected into the game and punish the opposition pack with solid hits and Lewis Brown provides the ultimate utility being able to slot in out wide, or in the forward pack.  On the opposing side, Feleti Mateo has the experience and Ben Henry is handy.  Charlie Gubb and Suaia Matagi are relatively new.  It appears Penrith probably have the edge on the bench.

In saying the Warriors have points in them, let’s not forget for one minute how solid Penrith’s defense is.  Even to the extent that going into this round the Panthers had conceded the least points of any National Rugby League side (204), where the Warriors defense was ninth in the league (295).  Having said that the Warriors have scored twenty-eight points more than Penrith.

So who wins?

I think whether Jamal Idris returns or not won’t rattle the Panthers side either way.  They have been good at adapting to changes at the last minute and just getting on with the job.  Penrith are in the lucky position of having a week off and it appeared they needed freshening up after a sluggish performance against St George-Illawarra where they just won.  New Zealand Warriors no doubt will be hard to knock off at home, but this Panthers 2014 outfit is special.  Ivan Cleary has this team focused and not thinking too far ahead.  We as supporters can see at 22 points and eleven matches remaining that a further four wins should be enough to make the finals.  If the Panthers can be disciplined, look keen to pounce on any errors the Warriors make and take advantage of field position, victory should head their way.  Johnson, Townsend and Mannering along with Sam Tomkins are the players Penrith need to be wary of this week.  It should be a close game, but Penrith in a close one.

 

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