The Panthers will have more confidence among their playing group after two straight wins but they face one of their toughest tests of the season against the Roosters. Jem Nash previews.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After a disastrous start to the season, the Panthers have won their last two games. It will be a much happier club but they still sit in 14th position on the ladder. Their win against the Sea Eagles was way too close for comfort after a dominant 70-minute display before Manly roared back into the contest. Their attack still needs work but it won’t come easy against a stiff Roosters defence.
The Roosters had the bye in round 12 but prior to that they were manhandled by the Knights, led by dominant displays from Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga. The injury to Luke Keary will really hurt as he’s been a standout all season but James Tedesco should come into this match with plenty of confidence after a starring performance for the Blues on Wednesday night.
Viliame Kikau and Wayde Egan are back in the side. Liam Martin moves back to the bench while Mitchell Kenny is back in the reserves. Reagan Campbell-Gillard comes into the starting side in place of the injured Tim Grant, while Hame Sele takes the place of Tyrell Fuimaono. Nathan Cleary has been named in the reserves after playing in Origin on Wednesday night.
Penrith Panthers squad: 1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Isaah Yeo, 4 Brent Naden, 5 Brian To’o, 6 Jarome Luai, 7 James Maloney, 8 James Tamou, 9 Wayde Egan, 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Frank Winterstein, 13 James Fisher-Harris Interchange: 14 Sione Katoa, 15 Liam Martin, 16 Moses Leota, 17 Hame Sele Reserves: 18 Kaide Ellis, 19 Caleb Aekins, 20 Mitchell Kenny, 21 Nathan Cleary
All of the Roosters Origin players have been named, but Latrell Mitchell is unlikely to play after going back home to Taree following the game on Wednesday night. Cooper Cronk is back after being rested last round and will partner Drew Hutchison in the halves who comes in for Luke Keary. Mitchell Aubusson moves back to the bench while Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will need to be replaced after receiving a two-week suspension.
Sydney Roosters squad: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 Joseph Manu, 5 Matt Ikuvalu, 6 Drew Hutchison, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9 Victor Radley, 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Angus Crichton, 13 Isaac Liu Interchange: 14 Nat Butcher, 15 Zane Tetevano, 16 Sitili Tupouniua, 17 Mitchell Aubusson Reserves: 18 Poasa Faamausili, 19 Ryan Hall, 20 Lindsay Collins, 21 Sam Verrills
HEAD TO HEAD
The Panthers and Roosters have met just once in each of the past two seasons. In 2018, the Roosters cruised to a 32-6 win. The Roosters have had the wood over the Panthers in recent times, and given both side’s form in 2019 it’s difficult to see this match bucking the trend.
This game comes down to the halves. Cleary is still a chance to be a late inclusion, but if not, both halves pairings blend youth with experience. Maloney produced arguably his best performance of the season against the Sea Eagles and the Panthers need him to repeat that performance. Luai was a constant threat with ball in hand but the Roosters defence, despite a poor display against the Knights, is arguably the best in the competition. The Panthers have struggled to score points all season and they need to turn that around quickly if they’re any chance of winning this game.
For the Roosters, a lot of pressure rests on the shoulders of Cooper Cronk with Luke Keary missing, as Drew Hutchison will play his first NRL game since 2016. The pressure is something that Cronk is used to but he will have to do a lot more than direct the team around and use his dangerous kicking game. He needs to get the ball in his hands as much as possible. Look for him to combine with Tedesco against a Panthers defence which has been leaking for the majority of the season.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday, June 9
Venue: Panthers Stadium
Referee: Ben Cummins, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
WHO WILL WIN?
The Panthers should have much more confidence heading into this clash but the Roosters are still one of the best teams in the competition and boast far too much firepower. It’s too hard to see anything but the Roosters cruising to victory. Roosters by 10