The Penrith Panthers will be without Origin stars when they host the Cronulla Sharks at Panthers Stadium to open round 18 on Friday night.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Panthers currently round out the top four teams, sitting on twenty-four competition points after winning eleven matches. Last Friday night the side hosted the Warriors and won by a convincing thirty-two point margin. The side has been one of the most successful so far this season, and will be looking for a second consecutive win against Cronulla on Friday night.
The Cronulla Sharks will be kicking into gear once again after having played just one game in the last three weeks. After all clubs having the weekend off, they narrowly defeated the Warriors and then had a bye the following round. The Sharks have had a tough run with injuries so far this season causing a slower start to the season. Their consistency is slowly improving however still needs work in order to defeat the Panthers.
The Origin trio in James Maloney, Nathan Cleary and Tyrone Peachey were named in the extended bench on Tuesday, however it was confirmed post-Origin by coach Anthony Griffin that the three will not be playing for the club on Friday night. Caleb Aekins is set to make his fullback debut for the club.
Just one change has been made to the side Cronulla took to New Zealand, with the Sharks welcoming back Wade Graham who has been sidelined for a few weeks. Valentine Holmes has been named to back up after Origin however there has been no word on whether coach Shane Flanagan will give him the weekend off.
The Panthers and the Sharks will be meeting for the second time this season when they take to the field in Penrith on Friday night. It will be Cronulla recruit Matt Moylan’s first match back at the ground since leaving at the end of the 2017 season.
While the key match up between Maloney and Moylan was highly anticipated by fans until the recent announcement that James Maloney has been given the weekend off club football after playing Origin on Wednesday night.
The Sharks hosted the Panthers back in April at Southern Cross Group Stadium and won in a narrow victory, defeating Penrith 26 points to 22. The Panthers will be looking for a win in order to solidify their spot in the top four on the ladder.
The Sharks are welcoming Wade Graham back after an injury that kept him sidelined for a few weeks. However, Cronulla are still without Josh Dugan who continues to recover from a leg injury.
The two competition points will be important for both sides to obtain; for the Panthers to maintain their top four spot while the Sharks are aiming to jump into the top four.
In the last twelve matches these sides have played together, the Sharks have won nine, including their last two consecutively.
1 Caleb Aekins, 2 Christian Crichton, 3 Waqa Blake, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Tyrone Phillips, 6 Tyrone May, 7 Jarome Luai, 8 Trent Merrin, 9 Sione Katoa, 10 James Tamou, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Isaah Yeo (c), 13 James Fisher-Harris Interchange: 14 Wayde Egan, 15 Corey Harawira-Naera, 16 Jack Hetherington, 17 Moses Leota
1 Valentine Holmes, 2 Sione Katoa, 3 Jesse Ramien, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Edrick Lee, 6 Matt Moylan, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Kurt Capewell, 12 Wade Graham, 13 Paul Gallen (c) Interchange: 14 Joseph Paulo, 15 James Segeyaro, 16 Aaron Woods, 17 Jayson Bukuya
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday, July 13
Venue: Panthers Stadium
Time: 6:00 PM
WHO WILL WIN?
The game is important for both the Panthers and the Sharks who will be looking for consecutive victories. Penrith will be without their Origin trio, however that didn’t stop them in comfortably defeating the Warriors last weekend. The Sharks have had a week off to refresh which could be considered an important advantage for the club.
Panthers by 2