Jem Nash previews the preliminary final clash between the Penrith Panthers and South Sydney Rabbitohs. This is what we have to look forward to.
The Panthers continued their red hot form into the finals, taking care of the Sydney Roosters in week one to claim their 16th straight win and be just one win away from a grand final. After going down 10-0 early, the Panthers scored 28 unanswered points before a late charge from the Roosters set up a thrilling finish. Nathan Cleary sealed the win with a late field goal, while his halves partner Jarome Luai produced another standout performance in his first finals appearance. Viliame Kikau was a big threat on the left edge as always, but will be sorely missed in this clash after copping a one-game suspension.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs are hitting top form at the perfect time of the year. They have scored 144 points in their last three matches, largely on the back of Cody Walker, who has been stellar late in the season. They overcame a 10-point half time deficit last week against the Eels, cruising to a 38-24 victory to set up this thrilling preliminary final clash. The Rabbitohs now face their toughest test of the season against the high-flying Panthers, and will be looking to avenge their 20-12 loss against the minor premiers back in round seven.
1 Dylan Edwards 2 Josh Mansour 3 Brent Naden 4 Stephen Crichton 5 Brian To’o 6 Jarome Luai 7 Nathan Cleary 8 James Tamou 9 Apisai Koroisau 10 James Fisher-Harris 11 Kurt Capewell 12 Liam Martin 13 Isaah Yeo 14 Tyrone May 15 Spencer Leniu 16 Moses Leota 17 Zane Tetevano 18 Mitch Kenny 19 Dean Whare 20 Matt Burton 21 Jack Hetherington.
Viliame Kikau is out with a suspension, with Kurt Capewell moving into the starting side and Spencer Leniu on the bench.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
1 Corey Allan 2 Alex Johnston 3 Campbell Graham 4 Dane Gagai 5 Jaxson Paulo 6 Cody Walker 7 Adam Reynolds 8 Tevita Tatola 9 Damien Cook 10 Thomas Burgess 11 Jaydn Su’A 12 Bayley Sironen 13 Cameron Murray 14 Mark Nicholls 15 Liam Knight 16 Jed Cartwright 17 Keaon Koloamatangi 18 Steven Marsters 19 Hame Sele 20 Troy Dargan 21 Patrick Mago.
The Rabbitohs are unchanged from last week’s win over the Eels.
Both sides haven’t had trouble scoring points this season, but it is the Panthers’ defence which may be the difference in this clash. The Panthers have conceded the least points in the regular season (238).
BATTLE TO WATCH
Jarome Luai vs Cody Walker
The halfbacks may be talked about more, but Luai and Walker are big reasons why their teams are just 80 minutes away from a grand final. Cleary might be the favourite for the Dally M Medal, but Luai has been just as good in 2020. While his halves partner has controlled the attack, Luai has been creating the majority of chances for his team with 22 try assists, 18 line break assists, 13 forced drop outs and seven tries of his own. He is a constant threat with ball in hand and a player the Rabbitohs will have to watch closely.
Likewise, Walker has been in top form for his side and is in line to return to the State of Origin arena after the season. The Rabbitohs’ five-eighth has 19 try assists, 15 line break assists, four forced drop outs and 10 tries on the season, but he is in peak form at the right time of the year. This will be a thrilling battle to watch that could ultimately decide the result of this game.
Panthers by two.
Date: Saturday, October 17.
Venue: ANZ Stadium.
Kick-off: 7:50pm (AEDT).