Both the Panthers and Warriors sit in the bottom half of the ladder with plenty to prove. This match could be make or break for both sides. Jem Nash previews…
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The time is now. The Panthers must make a move. It won’t be easy after an awful performance against the Tigers a week ago. Their attack once again struggled but their defence, particularly in the opening 20 minutes, was dreadful. The side is obviously down on confidence but at times they seem to lack any fire or passion, and each game brings with it more questions than answers for a team that had premiership aspirations at the start of the season.
New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors broke a four-game losing streak last week, rallying from 18-6 down to come away with a 26-18 win. Kodi Nikorima played a starring role in his first game for the Warriors along with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Still, the Warriors need consistency and they have a perfect opportunity to keep the ball rolling against a struggling Panthers outfit.
There have been mass changes to the struggling Panthers. Josh Mansour and Reagan Campbell-Gillard have both been axed, with Brian To’o set to make his NRL debut on the wing. Dylan Edwards returns at fullback after a couple of weeks in reserve grade, while Waqa Blake is back at centre after being dropped last week for disciplinary reasons. Liam Martin returns from suspension at lock, pushing Kaide Ellis back to the bench. Sione Katoa starts at hooker in place of Wayde Egan who has been left out.
Penrith Panthers squad: 1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Brian To’o, 3 Dean Whare, 4 Waqa Blake, 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Sione Katoa, 10 Tim Grant, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 James Fisher-Harris, 13 Liam Martin Interchange: 14 Jarome Luai, 15 Tyrell Fuimaono, 16 Moses Leota, 17 Kaide Ellis Reserves: 18 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 19 Hame Sele, 20 Frank Winterstein, 21 Caleb Aekins
New Zealand Warriors
Coach Stephen Kearney has named an unchanged lineup from the team that beat the Dragons last week.
New Zealand Warriors squad: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2 David Fusitu’a, 3 Peta Hiku, 4 Patrick Herbert, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Kodi Nikorima, 7 Blake Green, 8 Agnatius Paasi, 9 Nathaniel Roache, 10 Leeson Ah Mau, 11 Isaiah Papali’i, 12 Tohu Harris, 13 Lachlan Burr Interchange: 14 Jazz Tevaga, 15 Bunty Afoa, 16 Ligi Sao, 17 Karl Lawton Reserves: 18 Gerard Beale, 20 Chanel Harris-Tevita, 22 Isaac Luke, 23 Adam Blair
HEAD TO HEAD
The Warriors and Panthers met three times in 2018, the Panthers winning two.. In their first match-up, an inexperienced Panthers team proved far too good in a 36-4 win in roun 17, Jarome Luai the star in his first NRL start with a host of Panthers out on Origin duty. The Warriors got revenge in round 24 with a big 36-18 victory, however the Panthers got the last laugh, knocking the Warriors out with a 27-12 win in the first week of finals.
This one comes down to the halves. No doubt about it, the Panthers halves must step up. Yes, their forwards need to muscle up and get their side on the front foot, but in every game so far this season the Panthers have had their attacking opportunities but constantly lack direction inside the opposition 20. Forget about Origin, Nathan Cleary and James Maloney need to put the season so far behind them and regain their form to get the Panthers a win and get some confidence.
Kodi Nikorima will want to shore up a halves spot alongside Blake Green after a strong showing last week. On paper, Nikorima and Green should compliment each other perfectly, but it’s up to them to put it into action on the field.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday, May 17
Venue: Panthers Stadium
Referee: Henry Perenara, Jon Stone
WHO WILL WIN?
The Panthers have been the most disappointing side to start the 2019 season and we haven’t seen anything that shows they’ll be able to turn it around. Warriors bounced back with a strong showing last week and while they generally struggle for consistency they should be able to get the job done against the Panthers.
Warriors by 6