The Panthers are one of the hottest teams in the competition right now and come up against a struggling Dragons outfit. Jem Nash previews …..
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After a dismal start to the season, the Panthers are now in the top eight following six straight wins. Their 24-2 win over the Titans last week was arguably their most dominant performance of the streak, albeit against an awful Gold Coast outfit. While they are yet to reach their best form they’re playing with more confidence and enthusiasm than they were at the start of the year.
St George Illawarra Dragons
It’s hard to know why the Dragons are struggling so much with a large number of talented players on their roster. While the injuries to Gareth Widdop and James Graham haven’t helped, there is still a lot of talent remaining. Their loss to the Raiders last week was difficult to watch, and they need to be much improved this weekend with their season on the line.
Nathan Cleary returns from injury and will slot straight back into the halfback role. Jarome Luai drops back to the bench with Jed Cartwright returning to reserve grade.
Penrith Panthers squad: 1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Dean Whare, 4 Brent Naden, 5 Brian To’o, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Mitchell Kenny, 10 James Fisher-Harris, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Frank Winterstein, 13 Isaah Yeo Interchange: 14 Wayde Egan, 15 Jarome Luai, 16 Moses Leota, 17 Reagan Campbell-Gillard Reserves: 18 Hame Sele, 19 Jed Cartwright, 20 Kaide Ellis, 21 Stephen Crichton
St George Illawarra Dragons
Darren Nicholls comes into the side at halfback in place of Ben Hunt who is being rested. James Graham has been named at lock, returning from injury, pushing Blake Lawire to prop in place of Jeremy Latimore. Patrick Kaufusi Josh Kerr come onto the bench with Reece Robson and Jacob Host dropping to reserves.
St George Illawarra Dragons squad: 1 Matt Dufty, 2 Jonus Pearson, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Mikaele Ravalawa, 6 Corey Norman, 7 Darren Nicholls, 8 Blake Lawrie, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 James Graham Interchange: 14 Josh Kerr, 15 Korbin Sims, 16 Patrick Kaufusi, 17 Luciano Leilua Reserves: 18 Reece Robson, 19 Jacob Host, 20 Tristan Sailor, 21 Jason Saab
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the first meeting between the two sides in season 2019, with the Panthers taking out their only game last season. The Panthers met the top of the table Dragons in Round 12, with Nathan Cleary returning from injury to lead his side to an emphatic 28-2 win.
James Maloney vs Corey Norman. Maloney helped orchestrate a stunning Blues victory over the Maroons in Origin game three, while Norman was quite solid in his Origin debut. With no Ben Hunt and their season on the line, Norman needs to be the man to step up and lead the Dragons to a much needed victory.
Maloney has been brilliant during the Panthers win streak and been a major factor in their resurgence. With Cleary back this week, Maloney will be able to play with more freedom; a dangerous prospect for the Dragons as they look to win and solidify their spot inside the top eight.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday, July 19
Venue: Panthers Stadium
Referee: Grant Atkins, Jon Stone
WHO WILL WIN?
The Dragons are reeling right now, and while the return of James Graham is a big bonus, it probably won’t be enough. The Panthers are on a roll right now and all signs point to them keeping their win streak going.
Panthers by 10