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#VBNSWCup Preview: top of the table clash

ROUND 7 v Mounties @ St Marys Leagues Stadium, Saturday 25th April @ 3PM

Its 1 v 2 when the Panthers take on the undefeated Mounties with top spot up for grabs. Mounties with a win will extend their lead at the top to 4 points but a fourth win in a row by the Panthers will see them join Mounties at the top and could even see them lead the competition on for and against.

This game was originally scheduled for Aubrey Keech Reserve but with the recent heavy rains affecting the state of that ground, the game was transferred to St Marys Leagues Stadium which although being an away game for the Panthers is considerably close to their home ground Pepper Stadium where they have already played there on five occasions.

It’s not only Team 1 vs Team 2 in terms of positions on the ladder but it’s also the competition’s best attacking team (Mounties) versus the best defensive team in the competition (Penrith) hence it has also the hallmarks of being the game of the season thus far.

As they did with Manly a week earlier, the Panthers overcame a sluggish start against the Warriors to record a strong win over their much stronger opponents (on paper anyway) but against a side like Mounties it would be hard to see how Penrith could overcome such a similar start.

Penrith won both clashes against Mounties in 2014; In Round Five, the Panthers defeating a then undefeated Mounties side 32-16 at home before recording a tough 18-12 win played in heavy conditions at Leichhardt Oval in Round 23.

The Panthers go into this game with only Andy Saunders and Leilani Latu from last year’s NSW Cup team and taking out David Simmons’ 176 NRL games, the Panthers boast just four other players with 68 games of NRL experience. Mounties by comparison also have five players with NRL experience including the likes of Josh McCrone, Glen Buttriss and Bill Tupou.

As mentioned, Penrith are the competition’s best defensive team, conceding just 16.29 points per game to Mounties’ 19.14 points per game (third best average) but Mounties as the competition’s best team in attack average 27 points per game compared to the Panthers’ 22.57 points per game, seventh best in the NSW Cup.

Penrith’s task hasn’t been made easier with the likes of Kieran Moss (foot), Adrian Davis (hamstring) and Adam Docker (illness) all missing through injury while Apisai Koroisau, Waqa Blake, George Jennings and now Sam Anderson are now required to play first grade such is the extent of injuries at Penrith at the moment. However the Panthers do welcome back Robert Jennings in the centres where he will team up with this year’s surprise packet, Nu’u Akeripa who currently leads the way for the Panthers with four tries after seven matches.

Coach Garth Brennan has made some enforced changes for this week’s game due mainly to the continuing injury crisis in first grade. George Jennings and Sam Anderson are out replaced by Robert Jennings in the centres and Pat Hollis (bench) which sees Ben Murdoch-Masila start the game in the back-row while Brendan Attwood and Andy Saunders move to lock and prop respectively.

Matt Eisenhuth, a late inclusion for Adam Docker last week, retains his spot on a five man bench that includes another ex-Mounties player in Reece Goldsmith possibly playing alongside Rodney Coates who also plays his first game against his former club today. David Simmons is right to play having pleaded guilty to a grade one careless high tackle charge that sees him with 56 carry-over points.

Team as follows:

1 DAVID SIMMONS 2 EDDIE AIONO 3 ROBERT JENNINGS 4 NU’U AKERIPA 5 TOM EISENHUTH

6 WILL SMITH 7 SAM SCARLETT 8 SAM ANDERSON 9 SIONE KATOA 10 LEILANI LATU

11 BRENDAN ATTWOOD 12 CHRIS SMITH 13 ANDY SAUNDERS

INTERCHANGE: 14 RODNEY COATES 15 WELLINGTON ALBERT 16 MATT EISENHUTH

  1. PAT HOLLIS 18. REECE GOLDSMITH (1 to omit)

COACH GARTH BRENNAN

Mounties by comparison, have five players totally 347 NRL games experience but come into this game minus Jeremy Hawkins and Kyle O’Donnell but have former Queensland Cup Player of the Year, prop Luke Page returning from injury for this clash.

The full squad is as follows:

1 JACK AHEARN 2 BILL TUPOU 3 DAVE CAHALANE 4 MITCH CRONIN 5 GUS AIGA 6 JOSH MCCRONE

7 MITCH CORNISH 8 LUKE PAGE 9 GLEN BUTTRISS 10 WILLIE MATAKA 11 PATRICK MAGO

12 MITCH BARNETT 13 CLAY PRIEST

INTERCHANGE: 14 SAM DUGGAN 15 PAT MATAELE 16 RHYS KENNEDY 17 JAKE GOODWIN

18 STEVE TAVITA (1 to Omit)

COACH STEPHEN ANTONELLI

This game is a real toss of the coin with these two sides so evenly matched in terms of experience and talent. If anyone is capable of upsetting Mounties it’s Penrith but they will need to shut down the best halves combination in NSW Cup – Josh McCrone and Mitch Cornish as well as respecting possession and maintaining discipline in defence in order to escape with a narrow win over Mounties in what should be a cracker of a clash.

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