The “Comeback Kings” of the NRL, the Penrith Panthers, will face off against the Newcastle Knights in their last home game of season 2018. Their fans will hoping for a less stressful victory after watching the Panthers complete three come from behind wins in as many weeks.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Despite all the attention and media circus surrounding the club and the sacking of coach Anthony Griffin, the Panthers have won three games straight although as mentioned before they have all been come from behind victories and the side’s overall form has been poor. Penrith currently sit inside the Top Four but they will know they need to lift their game if they want to be a contender come September.
It’s been a tough season for Newcastle despite having a good start to the year injuries to key players has made it difficult for Nathan Brown’s side to compete with the best in the league. The return of Mitchell Pearce after a twelve week lay off seemed to put the side back on track for an unlikely run to the finals, but after winning two games in a row the Knights have fallen away losing their next three on the trot.
James Maloney has been ruled out for a month after suffering a medial ligament strain in his knee during the Titans game last week, Maloney who has a number of niggling injuries will enjoy the break to rest up after looking tired post Origin. Tyrone May will start in his place with Wayde Egan moving to the bench, James Tamou is a confirmed starter after missing last week, he will take the place of the suspended Jack Hetherington. James Fisher-Harris is a late exclusion through a niggling shoulder problem.
Newcastle have named the same side from last week but all the talk has surrounded the likely positional change for Kayln Ponga, reports suggest the Knights’ custodian will play five-eighth for the first time in his NRL career with Bulldogs bound Nick Meaney moving to fullback. The idea of playing Ponga and Meaney in the same side has been floated all season so the Knights’ faithful will watch with keen interest to see how they go. Veteran Chris Heighington is likely to miss this week also.
This match up sees two sides in two very different situations coming into Round 23, the Panthers are looking to clinch a Top 4 spot whilst Newcastle need one more win to be assured of avoiding a dreaded 4th wooden spoon in a row.
These two sides met earlier in the season in Round 10 at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, Penrith won that game 29-18 but the Knights were left to rue errors at key moments which killed off any chance they had of winning.
Looking at where the game will be won – if the last three weeks are anything to go by it will be in the last five minutes for the Panthers, but the side’s focus will be on completing an entire eight minute performance leading into the finals and if Penrith are able to achieve this the Knights will be of no match.
Newcastle have battled hard all season and have made great strides but injuries to key players and a lack of squad depth seem to have finally caught up with the Red and Blue side who have been off the pace since their loss to the Cowboys.
If Penrith come out firing and play like they did in the first half of the season a tired Knights side could be in for a long day, the last time Newcastle visited Penrith Stadium they were belted 40-0 so they will know what’s in store for them if they’re off their game.
Penrith have won their last five meetings with Newcastle, their longest wining streak against the Knights.
Panthers: 1. Tyrone Peachey 2. Josh Mansour 3. Waqa Blake 4. Dean Whare 5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 6. Tyrone May 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Sione Katoa 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Isaah Yeo 13. James Fisher-Harris 14. Wayde Egan 15. Trent Merrin 16. Corey Harawira-Naera 17. Moses Leota 18. Kaide Ellis 19. Christian Crichton 20. Adam Keighran 21. Liam Martin
Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Ken Sio 3. Sione Mata’utia 4. Cory Denniss 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Jack Cogger 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Herman Ese’ese 9. Danny Levi 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Aidan Guerra 14. Jamie Buhrer 15. Chris Heighington 16. Pasami Saulo 17. JJ Felise 18. Nicholas Meaney 19. Josh King 20. Brodie Jones 21. Luke Yates
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 18th of August 2018
Venue: Panthers Stadium, Penrith
WHO WILL WIN?
Newcastle seem like a side waiting for the season to end and with Penrith having so much to play for I can’t see this game going in any other way than a Panthers’ victory. Depending on whether Penrith can find their best form will determine how much they win by, but after putting behind them a couple of weeks of bad press and bad form I’m tipping Penrith by 13+
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