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#VBNSWCup Preview: Penrith Panthers vs Mounties

ROUND 24 V MOUNTIES @ Leichhardt Oval, Saturday 23rd August @ 1.10PM AEST

Newly crowned NSW Cup minor premiers, the Penrith Panthers play their final away game of the season before the finals series commences when they take on top 4 aspirants Mounties who need to win both games to ensure themselves of a top 4 finish in what is currently a congested ladder between teams 2 & 6.

The Panthers are refreshed from a well-deserved bye but the injury crisis that has rocked the NRL squad in recent times has seen the likes of Tim Grant, Matt Robinson & Ben Murdoch-Masila move back into first grade duties for the Penrith Panthers as they continue on with their push towards a top 4 finish.

Both teams come into this game as big last start winners over the cellar-dwellers for 2014, the North Sydney Bears – Penrith two weeks back overcame a slow start trailing 12-4 at one point before coming home strongly to inflict the Bears’ biggest loss of the season 68-12 while Mounties were equally dominant shutting out the Bears 40-0, to move into 5th position on 30 points but just 1 win shy of 2nd placed Wests Tigers on 32 points.

Tale Of The Tape:

This is the second meeting between these two sides in 2014 with the Panthers having the better of Mounties way back in Round 5, 32-16 at Sportingbet Stadium. That day it was Isaac John who put on a master class having a hand in all but one of Penrith’s 6 tries scored that day, with Kevin Naiqama the chief beneficiary scoring a hat-trick.

The Panthers are currently eight points clear & have secured the minor premiership & while the injury situation in first grade isn’t ideal, the silver lining for Garth Brennan is that some fringe players gain some match practice against quality opposition heading into the finals series in two weeks’ time.

Mounties will line up 4 players who either played with Penrith or came through the junior system – Shane Shackleton, Mosese Pangai, Reece Goldsmith & Mitch Cahalane. For the Panthers, ex-Raider Nathan Smith will come up against the likes of Terry Campese should he be cleared to play this weekend.

Team Changes:

Panthers: IN – Pat Hollis OUT – Eddie Aiono (NYC)

Despite the injury dramas to the Panthers NRL squad, Penrith have named a very strong NSW Cup side & coach Garth Brennan will again be looking for a committed 80 minute performance & hopefully put to bed that tendency to lapse in intensity around the 50-70 minute mark of games.

Coach Garth Brennan has named a strong 17 man squad that still has 10 players with NRL experience, with just the one change made at this stage with Eddie Aiono out replaced by Pat Hollis in a reshuffled line-up that sees Nathan Smith start in the centres. The likes of Kevin Kingston & Ben Murdoch-Masila have been named despite the injury concerns in the Panthers NRL squad this week although with Isaah Yeo’s injury now confirmed, expect to see Ben Murdoch-Masila take his place in the NRL side with a replacement to be confirmed for NSW Cup. Leilani Latu retains his spot on the bench, having been the one player not to have a week off instead playing Ron Massey Cup for the Windsor Wolves in an attempt to gain much needed match fitness after a long injury lay off.

The team is as follows:

1. KIERAN MOSS 2. ETO NABULI 3. NATHAN SMITH 4. WES NAIQAMA 5. KEVIN NAIQAMA

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

10. REAGAN CAMPBELL-GILLARD 11. BEN MURDOCH-MASILA 12. VAIPUNA TIA-KILIFI

13. RYAN SIMPKINS

INTERCHANGE: 14. LEILANI LATU 15. DANIEL FOSTER 16. PAT HOLLIS 17. TOM EISENHUTH

COACH: GARTH BRENNAN

Mounties: IN – Wayne Dargan, Clay Priest OUT – Jeremy Hawkins, Kyle O’Donnell (both NRL)

Coach Steve Antonelli has lost young gun centre Jeremy Hawkins to first grade along with experienced prop Kyle O’Donnell, replaced by Wayne Dargan on the wing & Clay Priest on the bench respectively. The changes will see Sami Sauiluma move into the centres while Lagi Setu will also start the match with Mark Nicholls taking over O’Donnell’s role up front as the prop. Mounties particularly if some late changes eventuate as predicted match up well with the Panthers with up to 8 players with NRL experience at their disposal.

The team is as follows:

1. JACK AHEARN 2. REECE ROBINSON 3. MOSESE PANGAI 4. SAMI SAUILUMA 5. WAYNE DARGAN

6. JOEY BOND 7. RYAN CARR 8. MITCH CAHALANE 9. REECE GOLDSMITH 10. MARK NICHOLLS

11. JAKE FOSTER 12. TEVITA PANGAI JUNIOR 13. LAGI SETU

INTERCHANGE: 14. CLAY PRIEST 15. ADAM TANGATA 16. MATT PLACE 17. SHANE SHACKLETON

COACH: STEPHEN ANTONELLI

 

 

The Verdict

The Panthers having won the minor premiership enter the next phase of this competition looking to rotate their playing roster, give some valuable match experience to some fringe players & ensure that everyone is fit & ready for the finals campaign ahead. If they manage to win both remaining games against two of the better teams in the competition they will eclipse last year’s minor premiers Cronulla Sharks points tally with 44 points.

Mounties however will not be easy & have named a strong side capable of matching it with the Panthers on this occasion given the Panthers look a little down for experience in their side due to the increasing injury toll hitting the NRL squad at the moment. Mounties especially hold their own in attack ranked 3rd in the NSW Cup scoring over 29 points per game on the back of the likes of Sami Samiluma (17 tries – 19 including NRL tries), Jake Foster (12 tries) & more recently Reece Robinson (10 NRL tries). With a top 4 spot on the line & in front of a captive Fox Sports audience keen to see if Terry Campese does take to the field, an upset is in the offering given Mounties do have more to play for at this time of the season.

Mounties by 2.

Key Stats:

A)     Team Stats:

Attack: Panthers 31.5 ppg (1st); Mounties 29.2 ppg (3rd)

Defence: Panthers 18.5 ppg (1st); Mounties 22.4 ppg (5th)

Differential: Panthers 13.0 ppg (1st); Mounties 6.8 ppg (3rd)

B)      Player Stats:

NRL Experience (based on listed teams):

Panthers 10 (605 games) including K Kingston (182), N Smith (128), W Naiqama (121)

Mounties 7 (305 games) including R Robinson (96), S Shackleton (93) & L Setu (71)

Try Scorers: Panthers – E Nabuli 15 (=4th), K Naiqama 14, (7th); Mounties – S Sauiluma 17 (2nd), J Hawkins 13 (8th), J Foster 12 (=10th)

Points: Panthers – W Naiqama 116 (4th); W Smith 100 (5th); Mounties – M Cornish 90 (5th)

Ball Receipts: Panthers – K Moseley 1,129 (7th); Mounties – R Goldsmith 1,093 (8th)

Run Metres: Panthers – R Campbell-Gillard 2,120 (10th)

Tackle Breaks: Mounties – S Sauiluma 61 (=7th)

Line Breaks: Panthers – E Nabuli 18 (3rd), K Naiqama 17 (4th); Mounties – S Sauiluma 19 (2nd) J Foster 13 (=9th)

Kick Receipts: Mounties – J Bond 79 (=6th)

Hit Ups: Mounties – M Cahalane 198 (10th)

Kick Metres: Panthers – T Humble 2,342 (7th); Mounties – M Cornish 3,862 (1st), M Place 2,145 (10th)

Tackles: Panthers – R Simpkins 689 (5th)

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