The Penrith Panthers will seek a club record ninth-straight win when they take on the New Zealand Warriors at Central Coast Stadium on Friday night. Jem Nash previews.
New Zealand Warriors
It’s been an incredibly tough year for the Warriors, but they have started to find some life in the past fortnight on the back of two straight wins. They have beaten the Sea Eagles and Tigers – two sides that are firmly in the hunt for the finals – and now sit in 11th position on the ladder, two wins outside the top eight. It remains to be seen how much the loss of Blake Green will hurt them, but experienced players like Tohu Harris and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck have really started to step up over the last few weeks.
The Panthers just keep on rolling. They equalled a club record with their eighth straight victory last week in a 28-12 win over the Raiders, on the back of a near-perfect first half performance. The Panthers were simply unstoppable in the opening 40 minutes, defending five straight sets on their goal line to start the match before scoring four unanswered tries to well and truly seal the win with a 24-0 half time lead. They have star power right across the park, but what’s setting the Panthers apart from the rest is how much this team is playing for each other. The Roosters and Storm are still right on their heels, but it’s hard to argue that Penrith are premiership favourites right now.
New Zealand Warriors
1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2 Patrick Herbert 3 Adam Pompey 4 Peta Hiku 5 George Jennings 6 Kodi Nikorima 7 Chanel Harris-Tavita 8 Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 9 Karl Lawton 10 Lachlan Burr 11 Eliesa Katoa 12 Tohu Harris 13 Jazz Tevaga 14 Wayde Egan 15 Adam Blair 16 Daniel Alvaro 17 Isaiah Papali’i 18 Jack Murchie 20 Gerard Beale 21 Adam Keighran 22 Josh Curran.
Lachlan Burr comes into the starting side in place of Jack Hetherington (who is suspended), with Isaiah Papali’i taking Burr’s spot on the bench.
1 Caleb Aekins 2 Josh Mansour 3 Tyrone May 4 Stephen Crichton 5 Brent Naden 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 Daine Laurie 15 Spencer Leniu 16 Moses Leota 17 Zane Tetevano 18 Mitch Kenny 19 Dylan Edwards 20 Matt Burton 21 Billy Burns.
The Panthers are unchanged, with Daine Laurie holding his spot on the bench. Dylan Edwards has been named on the extended bench and could potentially return from injury.
The Panthers have been a brick wall to start their matches, as they are yet to concede a single point in the opening 20 minutes of any game this season. When these two teams met back in round four, the Panthers won 26-0.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Viliame Kikau vs Tohu Harris
Two very different players who can both have an enormous impact on their team. The Panthers got Kikau much more involved last week and he was back to his devastating best, crossing for the first try of the game as well as running for 100 metres and a line break. He was a threat every time he touched the ball and was close to breaking the line on many more occasions.
Harris was enormous for the Warriors last week, finishing the game with 214 run metres and 38 tackles. He is such an important part of the side and if he is on again they will be right in this game.
Panthers by 16.
Date: Friday, August 14.
Venue: Central Coast Stadium.