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NRL Finals match preview: Penrith Panthers vs Canterbury Bulldogs

Date: 27th September, 2014
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Kick-off: 7:55pm

Teams

Penrith Panthers: Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Dean Whare, Jamal Idris, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, William Smith, Jamie Soward, Sam McKendry, James Segeyaro, Brent Kite, Sika Manu, Matt Robinson, Nigel Plum. Interchange: Adam Docker, Jeremy Latimore, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Lewis Brown, Kevin Naiqama, Sam Anderson

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs: Sam Perrett, Corey Thompson, Josh Morris, Timoteo Lafai, Mitch Brown, Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson, Aiden Tolman, Michael Ennis, James Graham, Josh Jackson, Tony Williams, Greg Eastwood. Interchange: Reni Maitua, Dale Finucane, David Klemmer, Frank Pritchard, Moses Mbye, Harlan Alaalatoa

Form

Penrith Panthers
Finals Week 1: Roosters (A), W 19-18
Round 26: Warriors (H), W 22-6
Round 25: Sea Eagles (A), L 25-26
Round 24: Storm (H), L 10-24
Round 23: Cowboys (H), W 23-22

Canterbury Bulldogs
Finals Week 2: Sea Eagles (A), W 18-17
Finals Week 1: Storm (A), W, 28-4
Round 26: Titans (A), L 18-19
Round 25: Rabbitohs (H), L 14-21
Round 24: Tigers (A), W 30-10

Preview

The Penrith Panthers v Canterbury Bulldogs preliminary finals sees the underdogs facing off against each other, with both teams knowing all too well that once in a Grand Final, anything can happen.

The Panthers, on the back of some wonderful form from five eight Jamie Soward and fullback Matt Moylan, are the fairytale team of the competition, rising from the doldrums in 2013.

Matt Moylan’s story is a fairytale in itself, the fullback was close to being cut from the Panthers before injuries saw him join the team, with Moylan grabbing the opportunity with both hands, with neither player nor club looking back.

And after taking victory from the jaws of defeat against the Roosters in week one of the finals Moylan and his side are just a win away from the grand final. After they earned a week off, the Panthers should be fresh for the occasion.

Their opponents on the other hand, faced a grueling battle with an understrength Manly Sea Eagles, prevailing when Trent Hodkinson sent a field goal over the posts for a second time to claim a golden point win.

The advantage of the week off has often been hotly debated, with some saying it halts a team’s momentum, although the weeks break can help with niggling injuries players always have at this point in the season.

The long injury toll the Panthers have suffered looked to have ended their charge later in the season, but they have just kept finding a way to win. They will be hoping they gain the positives from the break, and avoid further injuries if they are to over come their challengers this week.

The Bulldogs however, will be feeling confident, having knocked off Melbourne and Manly, putting a few disappointing late season losses behind them. While it can be argued that Melbourne were very out of sorts, and Manly had a small injury crisis, the fact the Bulldogs still rose to the occasion and ran out over the top shows they are a threat to any side.

Concerning for their coach Des Hasler is their ability to fade out during games. In round 26 they skipped out to an 18-nil lead at half time, before the Titans scored 19 unanswered points to win. Likewise, in their clash against Manly last week, the Bulldogs took an early 16-nil advantage, before finding themselves locked up and having to fight in extra time.

If they are to do this against the Panthers, the game will be over before the final whistle, and Penrith will be moving on to the big game.

The Bulldogs must find a way to stay switched on in the middle period of the game, and Hasler will remind them this week that an early lead does not give them the right to go to sleep.

Penrith showed against the Roosters that they have fight in them no matter what the scoreboard reads. When Mitchell Pearce scored late for the Roosters, it seemed that the game was lost. The Penrith side however scored an incredible try through Dean Whare and Soward kicked them home.

If Canterbury switch off, Penrith will show their bite, the bite that the Sydney Roosters side knows all too well.

The Panthers look excited to be playing football, and there seems a real bond amongst the squad. It is a bond that should see them claim victory this week.

Previous Meetings This Season

These two teams met twice in the regular season, with the Penrith side claiming both games. The first game in particular was a cracking affair, with a Moylan sideline conversion as the siren sounded giving them the lead for the first time, as well as the win.

The second game was held at the same venue as this weeks matchup, where the Panthers ran out 22-16 winners, a score line that perhaps flattered the doggies, who scored twice in the final five minutes.

Prediction

Panthers by 13

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