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#VBNSWCUP MATCH PREVIEW PENRITH PANTHERS VS NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS

ROUND 16 v NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS @ Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday 29th June @ 9:40AM AEST

The 1st placed Penrith Panthers are looking for their 9th win in a row having won 12 of their last 13 games when they take on a New Zealand Warriors side desperate to not only atone for last week’s shock 12-8 loss at home to the Wyong Roos, but also for an embarrassing 36-8 loss when hot favourites over a severely depleted Panthers outfit back in Round 8B. Penrith’s win over the Warriors back in Round 8B was in fact the Panthers first win in a current 8 game winning streak.

Although making the arduous trip across the Tasman, the Panthers will go into this game as heavy favourites given their squad containing no less than 12 players with NRL experience including a starting pack that wouldn’t look out of place in the NRL.

Tale Of The Tape:

This is the second meeting between these two sides after Penrith shocked the Warriors with a 36-8 round 8B win. A win for the Panthers will maintain their top status on the NSW Cup ladder possibly alongside Wentworthville, while a loss given other results thus far, will see the Panthers finish the round in no worse than 2nd position. A Panthers win will continue to see them set the benchmark for 2014 with a season best 9 wins in a row in the process. Conversely a win for the Warriors will see them finish the round equal with the Illawarra Cutters in 4th position so there is plenty to play for both sides.

Key Stats:

A)     Team Stats:

Attack: Panthers 29.33 ppg (2nd); Warriors 23.53 ppg (9th)

Defense: Panthers 19.73 ppg (1st); Warriors 21.60 ppg (4th)

Differential: Panthers 9.60 ppg (1st); Warriors 1.93 ppg (7th)

B)      Player Stats:

NRL Experience (based on listed teams): Panthers 12 (633 games) Warriors 6 (50 games)

Try Scorers: Panthers – K Naiqama 12 (4th), E Nabuli 9 (=6th)

Points: Panthers – W Smith 80 (=4th); Warriors C Tuimavave 80 (=4th)

Tackles: Panthers – R Simpkins 479 (4th), K Moseley 442 (10th)

Runs: Panthers – S Anderson 194 (4th)

Hit Ups: Panthers – S Anderson 142 (6th)

Line Breaks: Panthers – E Nabuli 14 (4th), K Naiqama 13 (5th)

Ball Receipts: Panthers – K Moseley 990 (2nd)

Team Changes:

Panthers: IN – Wes Naiqama, Luke Capewell, Tom Eisenhuth OUT – Kieran Moss (injured), Kevin  Naiqama (NRL), Bryce Cartwright (NRL).

Coach Garth Brennan has moved Will Smith to fullback to cover for Kieran Moss with Tom Humble & Luke Capewell the new halves pairing. Ben Murdoch-Masila will start with Tom Eisnehuth added to a five man bench that also includes Liam Ayoub. Matt Robinson once again comes up against his former Warriors team mates. Don’t be surprised however if Jamal Idris returns to the NRL & either Isaah Yeo or Kevin Naiqama return to the NSW Cup as a late inclusion.

The team is as follows:

1. WILL SMITH 2. ETO NABULI 3. WAQA BLAKE 4. JAMAL IDRIS 5. WES NAIQAMA

6. TOM HUMBLE 7. LUKE CAPEWELL 8. SAM ANDERSON 9. KEVIN KINGSTON 10. TIM GRANT

11. BEN MURDOCH-MASILA 12. MATT ROBINSON 13. RYAN SIMPKINS

INTERCHANGE: 14. VAIPUNA TIA KILIFI 15. TOM EISENHUTH 16. REAGAN CAMPBELL-GILLARD

17. ANTHONY CHERRINGTON 18. LIAM AYOUB (1 TO OMIT)

COACH: GARTH BRENNAN

Warriors: IN – Jarrod Tua, John Palavi OUT – Dane Nielsen (NRL), Abraham Papalii (Dropped).

Coach Rohan Smith has swapped half Tuimoala Lolohea to fullback with Steve Waetford. Solomone Kata moves in from the wing to start at centre, while John Palavi’s return from NRL duties sees Michael Sio revert back to the interchange bench.

The team is as follows:

1. TUIMOALA LOLOHEA 2. NGATAUA HUKATAI 3. SOLOMONE KATA 4. DOMINIQUE PEYROUX

5. JARROD TUA 6. CARLOS TUIMAVAVE 7. STEVE WAETFORD 8. UPU POCHING 9. SILIVA HAVILI

10. AGNATIUS PAASI 11. MICHAEL KI 12. RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER 13. JOHN PALAVI

INTERCHANGE: 14. MICHAEL SIO 15. ALBERT VETE 16. SAM LOUSI 17. DAVID BHANA

COACH: ROHAN SMITH

The Verdict

The Panthers when you look across the teams named look to have too much class for what will no doubt be a fired up Warriors side that will be inspired for a big performance at home again after last week’s shock home loss to the Roos plus coupled with the desire to end the Panthers’ winning streak at 8 given the Panthers’ streak started with an unlikely 36-8 win back in Round 8B. On paper at least the Panthers are nearly a 8 ppg better side than the Warriors & with their 12 players with NRL experience compared to the Warriors 6. However the Panthers winning streak includes their last four games being far from impressive wins winning by a combined margin of 19 points in that time. Their games have been punctuated with defensive lapses particularly in the last 20 minutes where having clocked up decent match-winning leads, the Panthers have a tendency to go to sleep in defence. Discipline or lack of continues to plague the Panthers given they have been soundly beaten in the penalty counts in their last 6 games which has contributed to their late second half defensive issues. Whilst a win is likely for the Panthers, the Warriors will be primed for a big performance & a win at home wouldn’t surprise. I’m tipping a Panthers to win game 9 in a row but not by any great margin – 4 points.

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