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NRL match preview: Penrith Panthers vs North Queensland Cowboys


Monday, Aug 18, Panthers v Cowboys, Sportingbet Stadium, 7pm

Panthers: Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Dean Whare, Jamal Idris, David Simmons, William Smith, Jamie Soward, Nigel Plum, James Segeyaro, Sam McKendry, Sika Manu, Isaah Yeo, Adam Docker. Interchange: Lewis Brown, Jeremy Latimore, Matt Robinson, Tim Grant

Cowboys: Michael Morgan, Tautau Moga, Matthew Wright, Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein, Robert Lui, Johnathan Thurston, Matthew Scott, Rory Kostjasyn, Ashton Sims, Tariq Sims, Jason Taumalolo, Glenn Hall. Interchange: Ray Thompson, Scott Bolton, Gavin Cooper, Sam Hoare

Cleary names unchanged line-up

Ivan Cleary has stuck with the same squad that confirmed Penrith’s spot in the finals with a great 16-4 win over St George-Illawarra at WIN Stadium last Sunday.  Matt Robinson on his return to the line-up slotted in nicely and pulled off some important tackles.  Tim Grant will want to work on his discipline after conceding a few too many penalties.  Something that you can’t afford to do against a Cowboys side who just put sixty on their last opponents.  Will Smith continues to ease his way into top grade football and expect the partnership with Soward to grow over the coming weeks as we head into the business end of the season.  This is as strong as our team will get for the rest of the season despite talk that Tyrone Peachey might be back.

Panthers injury update

ELIJAH TAYLOR: Ruptured his ACL during the Bulldogs game. He is out for the season.

BRENT KITE: Tore his pec during the Bulldogs game, but it’s not as bad as we first thought. He will be out for another 4 weeks

BRYCE CARTWRIGHT: Fractured his fibula and did some ligament damage to his ankle which will require surgery. He is out for the season

PETER WALLACE: Ruptured his ACL during the Sharks game. He is out for the season.

TYRONE PEACHEY: Suffered a pec tear and will have surgery this week. He is out for the season.

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

SHAUN SPENCE: He is being rested for the remainder of the year after suffering a few concussions. He will hopefully be back for pre-season training.


Confident Cowboys lose Sims

North Queensland are once again hitting their straps at the right end of the season and relatively injury free.  They fired a friendly warning at the rest of the National Rugby League competition with their 64-6 thrashing of the hapless Wests Tigers.  The Cowboys are aggrieved with the judicial system following Tariq Sims’ ban for what appeared to be a normal tackle during last week’s win.   Coach Paul Green saying post hearing the judiciary decision was “really surprising”.  Word is that James Tamou will return from injury to replace Sims.  Expect Johnathan Thurston to step up in the same way that Greg Inglis and Jarryd Hayne have for their respective teams already this round.  Matt Scott is in punishing form and Gavin Cooper off the bench gives the Cowboys another attacking weapon.  This is possibly North Queensland’s best squad given season ending injuries to Lachlan Coote, Brent Tate and Cameron King.  A tough battle looms for the Panthers as they try to protect their excellent home record against a finals quality side.

Close the Gap round and Sowie’s special boots

Check out this excellent interview by Shaun Spence with Jamie Soward about Close the Gap round and the special painted boots to celebrate indigenous culture.  We hope Sowie can lift like Greg Inglis did for the Rabbitoh’s on Thursday night in put in a great performance in this special round.  Check out the jersey design here.

Cowboys looking for five straight

North Queensland are looking to extend their winning run over Penrith to five matches on Monday night.  The Panthers last win over the Cowboys was on June 26 2011 by 30-20.  The scorers for Penrith that day were Petero Civoniceva, Lachlan Coote, Luke Lewis and Sam McKendry, with Travis Burns landing seven goals from seven attempts.  This is the first meeting between these two teams in 2014.  Last year Penrith were soundly beaten twice by the Cowboys.  In Townsville, the Cowboys kept Penrith scoreless while it was no different later in the season where the Cowboys won 36-4.  Overall head-to-head favours the Panthers who have won seventeen, North Queensland fourteen, with one draw.  At SportingBet Stadium both sides have won seven matches in their fourteen outings.  Penrith have recorded seven wins from eight matches at SportingBet Stadium in 2014.  The Cowboys two from ten on the road but most importantly have won both their last games when away from home.

What could happen

This game represents the start of four weeks of intense footy for the Panthers as they head into the finals.  They face all top eight sides starting with North Queensland this week and Melbourne next Monday night.  The last two fixtures are against Manly and the New Zealand Warriors.  

What will be the huge test for Penrith will be how they get on top of a massive North Queensland pack.  Last week they dominated the Dragons through the middle with ease but they boast one of the smallest packs in the competition.  Guys like Docker and Plum intimidated the opposition and the Panthers ended up on top.  

This week it’s about trying to contain Matt Scott who’s by far the best forward in the National Rugby League with his damaging runs through the middle.  When he’s not on the field, the Cowboys aren’t quite the same.  Gavin Cooper off the bench and the likelihood of James Tamou returning for the Cowboys and you can see how much punch they have in their pack.  

The Cowboys might lament letting James Segeyaro go, no disrespect to Rory Kostjasyn who is currently their number nine but just isn’t in the same league as our number nine.  The Panthers need to find a way to limit Scott’s damage and to keep Cooper quiet in the offloads department.  Easier said than done.

We all know that JT is going to be the biggest threat in attack and that his short flat passing is ready to catch out the Panthers defense.  Having said that, Penrith’s defense generally is compact and up in the opponents face.  Will JT chance his arm and try and throw some long cutout passes to Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein and Tautau Moga?  Some good finishers out wide for the Cowboys.

Penrith tightened up their defense last weekend and generally have been excellent in that department for the last two matches with the exception of the last seventeen against the Bulldogs two weeks back.  

As Jamie Soward said in the interview the forward pack will need to work harder to shut down the Cowboys.  Docker will gain confidence from last week’s performance and his combination from Plum might make some of the Cowboys forwards think twice before carting it up the middle.  

Penrith have to be more disciplined than last week, especially Tim Grant who was a liability in this department last week with three penalties conceded.  

The Melbourne Storm have prided their game on the teamwork around the fullback, halfback and hooker.  Penrith are almost their with the combination of Moylan, Soward and Segeyaro.  Moylan has almost been faultless at the back and looks to get involved with both Sowie and Chicko in the opposition’s red zone.  Segeyaro is quickly becoming established as one of the top number nines in the game with his work rate and ability to break open the game from dummy half.  Soward at the back end of his career is giving the Panthers direction and most importantly is in a good head space after some depressing years at the Dragons.  I’d love to see the Segeyaro, Soward and Moylan inside ball (like the combination of Smith, Cooper and Slater) to slice the Cowboys apart.

No doubt these two sides won’t hold back in attack and will back themselves in defense.  At the end of the day it might come down to discipline and completion rates that determines who wins this battle.  Panther fans will be hoping it’s not the nail biting finish that we saw against Brisbane in our last game at SportingBet Stadium where they won 35-34.

Panthers motivation is top four

As of Saturday August 16, Penrith are four points ahead of eighth spot and two points from top spot.  With three of their last four games at SportingBet Stadium there’s a good chance if they continue the home record pattern that a top four finish is likely.  To beat this Cowboys side in the hot form they are in will give Penrith a boost heading into next week’s Melbourne Storm clash.  The game won’t be easy but I think Segeyaro might prove the difference, and a Soward field goal to give Penrith a narrow seven point victory.

Let’s hope Penrith support their side over the next two Monday night’s at SportingBet Stadium and get the boys home.

Our VB NSW Cup side have the bye, while the Under 20’s can stay in finals contention with a win over twelfth placed North Queensland.  Kickoff at 4:45pm on Monday.


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