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2021 NRL Round Nine Preview, Panthers Vs Sharks

Jem Nash previews this big Round Nine clash between the Panthers and Sharks on Friday night at BlueBet Stadium.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Date: Friday, May 7, Time: 6:00pm AEST

Panthers Team

1. Dylan Edwards
2. Charlie Staines
3. Stephen Crichton
4. Matt Burton
5. Brian To’o
6. Jarome Luai
7. Nathan Cleary
8. Moses Leota
9. Apisai Koroisau
10. James Fisher-Harris
11. Viliame Kikau
12. Kurt Capewell
13. Isaah Yeo
14. Tyrone May
15. Spencer Leniu
16. Matthew Eisenhuth
17. Liam Martin
18. Scott Sorensen
19. J’maine Hopgood
20. Robert Jennings
21. Mitch Kenny

Team Changes

Unchanged

Sharks Team

1. William Kennedy
2. Mawene Hiroti
3. Will Chambers
4. Jesse Ramien
5. Connor Tracey
6. Shaun Johnson
7. Chad Townsend
8. Aiden Tolman
9. Blayke Brailey
10. Aaron Woods
11. Briton Nikora
12. Wade Graham
13. Toby Rudolf
14. Braydon Trindall
15. Teig Wilton
16. Jack Williams
17. Billy Magoulias
18. Matt Moylan
19. Josh Dugan
20. Franklin Pele
21. Jenson Taumoepeau

Team Changes

IN: Jesse Ramien
OUT:
Braden Hamline-Uele

Referee: Chris Butler

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Panthers

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Kurt Capewell will have to pass a fitness test after suffering a rib injury last week, but the Panthers have a very handy replacement in Liam Martin if Capewell is unable to go. Penrith were pushed last week against a much-improved Sea Eagles team, but Nathan Cleary once again led the way in another strong 28-16 win. Brian To’o continued to establish himself as one of the best metre eaters in the game, amassing 233 run metres, including a brilliant tackle-breaking run to set up the Panthers’ first try.

Sharks

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Jesse Ramien comes back into the side, pushing Teig Wilton back to the bench in place of the injured Braden Hamlin-Uele. It’s been a tough couple of weeks for the Sharks, as they were the victims of the Bulldogs’ first and only win of the season in round seven, before suffering a 40-14 thumping against the Storm last week. The Sharks were the better side for the opening 40 minutes in that contest, going into half time with an 8-6 lead before Melbourne found their footing, scoring 34 points in the second half. They’re on a four-game losing streak and it doesn’t get any easier this week against the undefeated Panthers.

PREVIEW

It’s getting to a point of do-or-die for the Sharks, as their finals hopes are already beginning to fade away. They face a tough few weeks with matches against the Rabbitohs and Dragons in the next fortnight following this weekend’s game.

The Panthers have the immediate advantage in the forward line, with Moses Leota continuing to enjoy his spot in the starting side and James Fisher-Harris picking up where he left off after a career-best 2020 season. The Sharks will have to rely heavily on Wade Graham to create chances on the edge while Viliame Kikau will be keen to bounce back after a relatively quiet performance against the Sea Eagles.

The halves present an intriguing battle, with Jarome Luai and Shaun Johnson boasting similar game styles. Both players can create chances out of nothing, and their performances will be key to their side’s chances. Luai’s combination with Cleary somehow continues to get better, with Cleary’s kicking game one of the best in the competition.

KEY STAT

The Sharks have actually won seven of their past 10 clashes with the Panthers, but it’s Penrith who have won the last three contests, including two dominant victories in 2020.

PREDICTION

Panthers by 12.

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