After a heartbreaking loss to the Sharks last week, the Panthers are back at home to take on the Rabbitohs. Jem Nash previews…
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Panthers first half last week was easily their best half of the season so far. They controlled the ball, dominated through the middle and looked threatening in attack. They weren’t able to keep it going in the second half, however, being starved of possession and allowing the Sharks to get back into the match. If they can even up the possession and continue their improved ball control, they should be right in this match against the Rabbitohs.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs were nowhere near spectacular in their Good Friday win over the Bulldogs but were able to grind out a win. They haven’t reached their full potential after a brilliant opening two rounds, but Adam Reynolds’ strong kicking game combined with Cody Walker’s always dangerous ball carrying they are still an incredible threat.
Dean Whare is out with a hamstring injury, forcing Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to move to the centres and 2018 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Player of the Year Caleb Aekins comes into the side at fullback for his second NRL game.
Penrith Panthers squad: 1 Caleb Aekins, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 4 Waqa Blake, 5 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Wayde Egan, 10 Tim Grant, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 James Fisher-Harris Interchange: 14 Sione Katoa, 15 Liam Martin, 16 Moses Leota, 17 Reagan Campbell-Gillard Reserves: 18 Jarome Luai, 19 Kaide Ellis
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs are unchanged from their win over the Bulldogs, however Tevita Tatola and Thomas Burgess have swapped prior to kick off in their last two games, so there’s every chance that will happen again.
South Sydney Rabbitohs squad: 1 Alex Johnston, 2 Corey Allan, 3 Kyle Turner, 4 Dane Gagai, 5 Campbell Graham, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 George Burgess, 9 Damien Cook, 10 Thomas Burgess, 11 John Sutton, 12 Sam Burgess, 13 Cameron Murray Interchange: 14 Tevita Tatola, 15 Mark Nicholls, 16 Ethan Lowe, 17 Liam Knight Reserves: 18 Bailey Sironen, 21 Mawene Hiroti
HEAD TO HEAD
The two sides met only once in 2018, all the way back in round two, with the Panthers pulling off a miraculous comeback after being down 14-0 for the second time in a row. Tyrone Peachey was the hero in that game, scoring the winning try. The comeback kings got a taste of their own medicine last week against the Sharks, if they get out to an early lead they won’t want to let that happen again.
The halves will be a big talking point in this game, with both Walker and Reynolds mentioned as State of Origin candidates in place of current pairing James Maloney and Nathan Cleary. However, this match will come down to who can win the battle in the middle. The Rabbitohs boast an incredibly dangerous forward pack, highlighted by the Burgess brothers as well as rising star and Origin bolter Cameron Murray.
Don’t sleep on the Panthers pack, though. James Tamou is in almost career best form and James Fisher-Harris has been one of Penrith’s best over the first six rounds. Add in the imposing Viliame Kikau, the always reliable Isaah Yeo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard off the bench and they have the players to match it with South Sydney. Whichever forward pack can get their side on the front foot early and win the arm wrestle in the middle should lead their side to victory.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday, April 26
Venue: Panthers Stadium
Referee: Ashley Klein, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
WHO WILL WIN?
The Rabbitohs have only lost one game so far this year, but they are only just doing enough to grind out wins. Despite being run down late last week, the Panthers will take a lot of confidence out of their first half performance. If they can win the possession stat and continue to control the ball, they should be able to get the job done in front of what should be a good Friday night home crowd.
Panthers by 4.