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2021 NRL Round 20 Preview, Storm Vs Panthers

Jem Nash previews this massive round 20 battle between the Storm and Panthers, in what could be the grand final preview. This is what we have to look forward to.

Note: game has been postponed due to snap lockdown in south-east Queensland as of 4pm 31/7/2021.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Date: 1/8, Time: 4:05pm AEST

Storm

1. Nicho Hynes
2. Dean Ieremia
3. Reimis Smith
4. Justin Olam
5. Josh Addo-Carr
6. Cameron Munster
7. Jahrome Hughes
8. Jesse Bromwich
9. Brandon Smith
10. Christian Welch
11. Felise Kaufusi
12. Kenneath Bromwich
13. Dale Finucane
14. Aaron Pene
15. Tui Kamikamica
16. Chris Lewis
17. Ryan Papenhuyzen
18. Tom Eisenhuth
19. Harry Grant
20. Jordan Grant
21. Isaac Lumelume

Team Changes

IN: Cameron Munster, Dale Finucane, Felise Kaufusi, Harry Grant, Isaac Lumelume, Tom Eisenhuth
OUT: Cooper Johns, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Trent Loiero

Panthers

1. Dylan Edwards
2. Charlie Staines
3. Stephen Crichton
4. Brent Naden
5. Robert Jennings
6. Matt Burton
7. Jarome Luai
8. Moses Leota
9. Mitch Kenny
10. Liam Martin
11. Viliame Kikau
12. Kurt Capewell
13. Matthew Eisenhuth
14. Izack Tago
15. Scott Sorensen
16. Spencer Leniu
17. J’maine Hopgood
18. Paul Momirovski
19. Jaeman Salmon
20. Lindsay Smith
21. Kurt Falls

Team Changes

IN: Izack Tago, J’maine Hopgood, Kurt Falls, Lindsay Smith, Matthew Eisenhuth, Paul Momirovski, Robert Jennings
OUT:
Brian To’o, Isaah Yeo, James Fisher-Harris, Tyrone May

Referee: Ashley Klein

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Storm

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Origin stars Cameron Munster, Felise Kaufusi and Dale Finucane are all back for the Storm, while Harry Grant has been named in the reserves but is likely to be out for another week with a hamstring injury. The Storm survived a big scare against the Cowboys last week, but were able to come away with a 20-16 victory, their 15th in a row. It’s the first time in a long time they have looked in any danger of dropping a game, but they will be back to full strength for this all important clash.

Panthers

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Isaah Yeo is out after suffering a concussion last week, with Matthew Eisenhuth named at lock. James Fisher-Harris is also out, returning to Sydney for the birth of his child. Brian To’o will miss around six weeks with a syndesmosis injury with Robert Jennings replacing him on the wing, and Tyrone May is also out, as Matt Burton comes into the halves and Brent Naden starting in the centres. It’s been a tough few weeks for the Panthers as they have had to navigate the Origin period and a number of injuries. They did what needed to be done to beat the Broncos last week but will need significant improvements this week if they want to challenge the Storm.

PREVIEW

The two sides last met back in round three, the Panthers coming away with a 12-10 win in an absolute thriller. The Storm have not lost since, while the Panthers have lost two of their past six. Storm would likely be favourites coming into this game even if both sides were at full strength, but with the Panthers missing a host of stars, their job becomes extremely difficult.

It’ll likely come down to the battle of the halves, as significant pressure will be on Luai and Burton to match it with the Storm pairing. Munster is arguably the most dangerous player in the competition with the ball in his hands, and if Panthers are to win they need to nullify his impact on the game.

For the Storm, Hynes continues to star at fullback, and they still have Papenhuyzen ready to make an impact off the bench. The Panthers need to turn this game into a grind. If they let the Storm get into a rhythm, they have the potential to blow it out. Penrith have the best defensive record in the competition, and they will need every ounce of that to be a chance.

KEY STAT

It’s the best attacking side against the best defensive side. The Storm have scored a monumental 652 points through 18 games, while the Panthers have allowed just 185 points so far this season.

PREDICTION

This match will likely decide the minor premiership, and with some significant outs for the Panthers and a down run on form, the Storm should be too strong. 

Storm by 14

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