The Panthers will look to make it eight wins in a row when they take on the fifth-placed Raiders at Panthers Stadium on Saturday night.
After a couple of grinding wins against the Cowboys and Titans, the Panthers returned to their absolute best in a dominant 42-12 win against the Sea Eagles in round 12. The result was never in doubt as the Panthers were in control from start to finish, with Nathan Cleary once again the star. The forwards continue to lay the platform and Cleary is only getting better as the season goes on. They’ve dealt with a number of injuries this season, but it’s a mentality of ‘next man up’ for the ladder leaders and they haven’t missed a beat.
Coach Ricky Stuart conceded his side were lucky to come away with a 14-12 win over the Cowboys last week, but that victory made it three in a row for the Raiders, who now sit in fifth position on the ladder. John Bateman was extremely important in his first game back from injury, and Canberra will need him to continue to improve as they look to remain in the hunt for a top four finish.
1 Caleb Aekins 2 Josh Mansour 3 Brent Naden 4 Stephen Crichton 5 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 6 Jarome Luai 7 Nathan Cleary 8 James Tamou 9 Apisai Koroisau 10 James Fisher-Harris 11 Viliame Kikau 12 Liam Martin 13 Isaah Yeo 14 Tyrone May 15 Spencer Leniu 16 Moses Leota 17 Zane Tetevano 18 Mitch Kenny 19 Matt Burton 20 Billy Burns 21 Daine Laurie
Malakai Watene-Zelezniak is back on the wing in place of the injured Charlie Staines in the only change for the home side.
1 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2 Jordan Rapana 3 Jarrod Croker 4 Curtis Scott 5 Nick Cotric 6 Jack Wighton 7 George Williams 8 Josh Papalii 9 Siliva Havili 10 Dunamis Lui 11 John Bateman 12 Elliott Whitehead 13 Hudson Young 14 Tom Starling 15 Joseph Tapine 16 Ryan Sutton 17 Corey Harawira-Naera 18 Sam Williams 19 Michael Oldfield 20 Kai O’Donnell 21 Matt Frawley
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad returns at fullback from a dislocated finger, pushing Jordan Rapana to the wing and the injured Semi Valemei out of the side.
These two sides have been pretty evenly matched over the last couple of years, with both teams sharing five wins apiece in their last 10 meetings.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Stephen Crichton vs Curtis Scott
One of the underrated battles to watch in this clash will be between Stephen Crichton and Curtis Scott. Crichton has been enjoying a stellar season at left centre, currently sitting equal second in tries with 11 scored on the season so far. The left edge has been a constant threat for the Panthers, with Kikau always handful and a dangerous decoy playing just inside Crichton.
On the other hand, Scott has received a fair bit of criticism this season, particularly for some poor defensive performances. He’s going to need to make sure he’s ready to take on the big challenge he faces this week, because if he’s off his game Crichton could have a field day.
Panthers by eight.
Date: Saturday, August 8
Venue: Panthers Stadium