2021 NRL Round 18 Preview, Warriors Vs Panthers

Brad Inger previews the Sunday afternoon clash between the New Zealand Warriors and the Penrith Panthers. This is what we have to look forward to.

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Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Date: 18/7, Time: 1:50pm (3:50pm NZ)

Warriors Team

1. Reece Walsh
2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
3. Rocco Berry
4. Marcelo Montoya
5. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
6. Kodi Nikorima
7. Sean O’Sullivan
8. Addin Fonua-Blake
9. Wayde Egan
10. Matt Lodge
11. Eliesa Katoa
12. Bayley Sironen
13. Jazz Tevaga
14. Josh Curran
15. Leeson Ah Mau
16. Bunty Afoa
17. Kane Evans
18. Adam Pompey
20. Euan Aitken
21. Chad Townsend
22. Tohu Harris

Team Changes

IN: Chad Townsend, Euan Aitken, Josh Curran, Kane Evans, Tohu Harris
OUT: Ben Murdoch-Masila, Jack Murchie

Panthers Team

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

Team Changes

IN: Dylan Edwards, Jaeman Salmon, J’maine Hopgood, Matthew Eisenhuth, Paul Momirovski, Robert Jennings
Jarome Luai

Referee: Chris Butler



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After poor showings in round 17, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Jack Murchie have been dropped. However the New Zealand side welcomes Josh Curran and Euan Aitken back from their two-week isolation. Chad Townsend and Tohu Harris have also been named on the extended bench and will have to pass a fitness test if they are to make their return from injury.

The Warriors come into the round on a five-game losing streak, with the last two rounds seeing them defeated 20-12 by the Sharks and 19-18 by the Dragons, with their season well and truly in jeopardy now.


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Jarome Luai joins his halves partner Nathan Cleary in the casualty ward; this sees Matt Burton and Tyrone May combining in the halves. Dylans Edwards returns from his foot injury, which sees the backline shuffled with Charlie Staines returning to the wing and Brent Naden moves into the centres. Brian To’o, Isaah Yeo, Kurt Capewell and Liam Martin got through State of Origin unscathed and have been named to back up.

The Panthers come into the round refreshed, having a bye last round, and they needed it after a close, hard-fought victory in round 16 when they defeated the Eels 13-12.


Both sides find themselves relocating due to the COVID situation in Sydney. It will be interesting to see how the Panthers respond to the challenge. The Warriors have become experts in living away from home, but their recent form may be showing that being away from their families for a year and a half is taking its toll.

The Warriors front-row duo of Addin Fonua-Blake and Matt Lodge showed promise last week, and they will need to take it to another level this week. If they can get the Warriors rolling forward, then the New Zealand side should be able to get Reece Walsh and skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck into attacking opportunities. Their biggest concerns are defensive lapses and their halves not being able to direct the Warriors attack efficiently. If the Warriors switch off for even five minutes, it could spell disaster.

The Panthers lose plenty of attacking power without Cleary and Luai out on the pitch, but they still have plenty of threats all over the park, and they will be targeting the Warriors week edge defence. Expect to see Brian To’o featuring heavily in the Panthers Red Zone attacking plays. The Warriors have been on a losing streak, but the Panthers will need to shut down the Warriors pack quickly to eliminate any second-phase football.


The head-to-head record between these sides leans in Penrith’s favour, with 25 wins out of 42 matches played. The Panthers have won seven of their past nine games against the New Zealand side, including going two for two in the 2020 season with a 26-0 blowout in round 4 and an 18-12 victory in round 14.


The Warriors may be noted as the home side here, but as it is on neutral soil, I give them no advantage; the New Zealand side also has not tasted victory in Queensland since 2019, which makes the task of facing Penrith more daunting. Warriors fans will be hoping to see more fight out of their team; however, the Panthers just have too much talent and should walk away with a comfortable win.

Panthers by 14 

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