NRL Grand Final Qualifier Preview: Penrith Panthers vs Canterbury Bulldogs

Date: Saturday September 27
Venue: Stadium Australia
Kick-off: 7:55pm


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 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


Penrith Panthers

Finals Wk 1 – Sydney Roosters (A), W 19-18
Rd 26 – New Zealand Warriors (H), W 22-6
Rd 25 – Manly Sea Eagles (A), L 25-26
Rd 24 – Melbourne Storm (H), L 10-24
Rd 23 – North Queensland Cowboys (H), W 23-22
Rd 22 – St George-Illawarra Dragons (A), W 16-4

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

Docker back for Grand Final Qualifier

Our National Rugby League side had the week off after a stunning 19-18 victory over Sydney Roosters back in week one of the finals series. Some of the squad along with coach Ivan Cleary ventured to Leichhardt Oval to see the VB NSW Cup side qualify for the Grand Final with a big win over Wentworthville Magpies last weekend.  Hopefully that result inspires the senior squad to make the big stage Sunday week.  The notable inclusion to this week’s side is Adam Docker, back from a two week suspension following our loss to Manly at Brookvale.  He is set to start from the bench.  An extended bench that includes departing Kevin Naiqama who’s heading to the Tigers in 2015, and Sam Anderson.

Panthers injury list (via

No news on the injury front and it appears the squad selected for this weeks game would be the same if Penrith qualify for the 2014 National Rugby League Grand Final.  To see the caliber of player on the sidelines and what we have achieved makes you feel proud to be supporting the mountain men.

There are no players out suspended with Docker’s return this weekend.

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

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.

Bulldogs name unchanged side

Canterbury have knocked over Melbourne and Manly in the last two weeks to get to the Grand Final Qualifier against Penrith.  Last weekend’s effort took a lot out of them as Manly pushed them to the edge.  Trent Hodkinson suffered a knee injury early in the game but there’s no doubt that he’ll play.  The Dogs also have the luxury of playing this game on ‘neutral’ turf at Stadium Australia, their home ground.  Des Hasler was handed a nice gift from the National Rugby League Match Review Committee (thanks to their previous CEO, TG) with Josh Jackson cleared of a chicken wing tackle on Josh Starling last Saturday night.  This once again reinforces the inconsistency and mess that is the Match Review Committee.  Their side is unchanged from last week bar the addition of Moses Mbye and Harlan Alaalatoa to the bench.

The tale of the tape – 2014. Panthers 2 Bulldogs 0

Panthers 18 Bulldogs 16: Matt Moylan – the making of a match winner 

Panthers 18 Bulldogs 16 a dramatic win for Penrith after Canterbury’s discipline let them down in the final minute of the game and resulted in Kevin Naiqama scoring.  Matt Moylan had the huge task of kicking from the western sideline at sixteen all on full-time.  Moylan’s poise in making the conversion saw the Stadium erupt in celebration as the Panthers showed the early signs of commitment and a never say die attitude that would see them make the finals.

Panthers 22 Bulldogs 16: sixty-three minutes of brilliance and bravery

Panthers 22 Bulldogs 16 the Bulldogs will feel this game was laced with no try controversies.  In reality, it was an exceptional sixty-three minute performance by the Panthers who led 22-0 until the Bulldogs scored three late consolation tries to get back within six points.  It was a night where Penrith lost both Elijah Taylor and Bryce Cartwright with season ending injuries.  The efforts of James Segeyaro in scoring a double was matched by Jamie Soward’s Shooter McGavin impersonation captured in photos post game.

Why the Panthers will win – our look at the game

When I walked into the Panthers Shop before our finals clash with the Roosters, the staff on duty at the time were telling me the boys believed they could win this weekend.  Just over twenty-four hours later and the result justified that confidence by dominating and beating the defending premiers.  Penrith not only pulled off the best win of the final series (to date), but avoided a knock-out clash with North Queensland in doing so.

To get this point of the season is a just reward for the coaching staff, management and of course the players.  One win away from emulating their VB NSW Cup team, who will play Newcastle Knights on Sunday at Allianz Stadium to determine the winner of that competition.

It’s a fact that Penrith have beaten Canterbury twice this year, but this game is a different kettle of fish.  It could come down to one moment of brilliance, or one moment of madness that could determine the winner.

What is true to say is Penrith can overcome a big forward pack that the Bulldogs boast.  James Graham can be kept quiet and with Adam Docker returning this week it may be his job to put Tony Williams on his back and his confidence to run out wide will be negated.

Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds might be the incumbent New South Wales Origin halves but you would take Jamie Soward over them any day.  Sowie’s kicking game was a little off early in the Roosters game but he produced a moment of brilliance to set up Dean Whare’s try with five minutes to go which resulted in victory. His finals experience is set to help the Panthers with direction and leadership.  Again it will allow Matt Moylan and James Segeyaro to play their own natural game against what could be a hostile crowd. Panther fans, get out there and make it our home turf!

Segeyaro’s runs out of dummy half will provide the Panthers with go-forward and allow the likes of Josh Mansour and Lewis Brown to cart the ball up the middle as the Bulldogs forwards struggle to get back to the ten metre mark.

Let’s not forget the importance of experience in Brent Kite who’s been here time after time and knows what it takes to get to the Grand Final.  The same can be said for Sika Manu who’s had a great year in a winning side, doing the little things right.  In some respects it’s allowed Sam McKendry to become more confident and improve his game.  He will need to lift even further going into the biggest game of his career.

Jamal Idris will provide the space out wide and could fire offloads in the direction of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to create scoring opportunities.  DWZ marks up against another rookie in Corey Thompson.  Penrith could win the battle out on this wing and go along way to winning the game on the scoreboard.

Penrith will need to be cautious not to play into the hands of serial niggler Michael Ennis and Josh Reynolds.  After last weekend’s Manly vs Canterbury game, the officials sent a warning that no punch will be tolerated.

The player who could provide the Panthers with a lot of trouble is Tim Lafai who was very strong in a beaten side against us in the last meeting between these two teams.  Dean Whare will need to be very good in defense to keep Lafai at bay.

A player who Penrith could target is Sam Perrett under the high ball.  Don’t be surprised if Soward throws a few torpedo’s in Perrett’s direction with Moylan and Jamal Idris following through putting pressure on the Bulldogs fullback.

Penrith can and will defend.  They will need to stay disciplined and not give away silly penalties.  And be disciplined with holding onto the ball and not panicking.  In the Roosters game I think Penrith knew they had to be patient.  At some stages they became impatient but in the second half the sustained pressure paid off.  Again this week patience will be a key to victory.

Can we win?  It’s a 50/50 contest in reality but yes we can win.  Do we have the players to do the job?  We sure do!

Will you believe like our players that we can do this?

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