The Panthers and Tigers face off for the second time this year, with both sides desperate for a win. Jem Nash previews…
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Tigers learnt firsthand how strong the Roosters are and how special a player Latrell Mitchell is last week. It was a heavy loss, but with Benji Marshall back in the side they should be more confident heading into this week. If they can tighten up their defence, particularly on the edges, they have plenty of firepower to trouble the Panthers.
The Panthers were once again their own worst enemy last week with poor discipline and struggling to finish off their attacking sets with any kind of threat. It’s been the story of their season, with silly penalties and terrible completion rates letting them down week after week. If they can fix their discipline, there’s no doubt that will help but the halves need to step up. The incumbent NSW halves are doing nothing to force Freddy to pick them again. They’re down on troops this week but that’s no excuse. Cleary and Maloney need to take control, lead from the front and return their team to form.
Benji Marshall returns from injury at five-eighth, pushing Ryan Matterson back to the second row. Matt Eisenhuth replaces Josh Aloiai at lock, who is out with concussion. Oliver Clark has been named on the bench while Elijah Taylor misses out.
Wests Tigers squad: 1 Moses Mbye, 2 Mahe Fonua, 3 Robert Jennings, 4 Esan Marsters, 5 Corey Thompson, 6 Benji Marshall, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Ben Matulino, 9 Robbie Farah, 10 Alex Twal, 11 Ryan Matterson, 12 Chris McQueen, 13 Matt Eisenhuth Interchange: 14 Jacob Liddle, 15 Thomas Mikaele, 16 Oliver Clark, 17 Luke Garner
There have been mass changes from the side who lost to the Raiders last week. Waqa Blake has been dropped after missing training, with Tyrell Fuimaono taking his place at centre. Dean Whare returns from a hamstring injury, shifting Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to the wing in place of his injured brother Malakai. Frank Winterstein comes back from injury in place of Viliame Kikau who could still be a late inclusion off an extended bench. Hame Sele is out with a back complaint after being named at lock, while Liam Martin is out with suspension and Isaah Yeo is out injured. Jarome Luai and Kaide Ellis join the bench.
Penrith Panthers squad: 1 Caleb Aekins, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Dean Whare, 15 Tyrell Fuimaono, 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Wayde Egan, 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11 Frank Winterstein, 12 James Fisher-Harris, 14 Sione Katoa Interchange: 16 Moses Leota, 17 Tim Grant, 18 Jarome Luai, 19 Kaide Ellis Reserves: 20 Dylan Edwards, 21 Viliame Kikau
HEAD TO HEAD
The Panthers and Tigers have already met this season, the Panthers producing one of the greatest escapes we’ve ever seen in an awfully scrappy 9-8 win. A try to Dylan Edwards in the dying minutes and a sideline conversion from Cleary after the siren sent the game to golden point before Cleary iced the game with a monster 40 metre field goal. The Panthers had no right to win that game, and had the Tigers’ goal kicking been more accurate, it could have been a different story. Panthers need to improve immensely from that last performance, otherwise Tigers will walk away with the two points.
All eyes will be on the halfbacks. The current NSW halfback in Nathan Cleary up against the reigning Dally M halfback of the year Luke Brooks. Cleary has come under much scrutiny this season, and justifiably so. The Panthers look lost when they’ve got the ball inside their attacking 20, and it’s time for Cleary to take control. It can’t be easy to have so many eyes on you and the pressure that’s on his shoulders, but it’s time for the young halfback to full reach his potential.
Brooks has been solid if not spectacular this season. He has five try assists, one ahead of Cleary (4), and should take some extra confidence into this game knowing the experienced head of Benji Marshall will be beside him.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday, May 10
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Referee: Chris Sutton, Chris Butler
WHO WILL WIN?
Both sides need form and they need consistency. In a neutral venue, it’s truly anyone’s game but the Tigers, despite a few heavy losses, have shown more potential than the Panthers, who are in shambles right now. It shouldn’t be a blowout but it’s tough to see anything but the Tigers cruising to victory.
Tigers by 12