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2021 NRL Finals Week One Preview, Panthers Vs Rabbitohs

Jem Nash previews this all important top four final between the Panthers and the Rabbitohs on Saturday night. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Date: Saturday, September 11, Time: 7:50pm AEST

Panthers

1. Dylan Edwards
2. Stephen Crichton
3. Paul Momirovski
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. Mitch Kenny
15. Spencer Leniu
16. Tevita Pangai Jr
17. Liam Martin
18. Matthew Eisenhuth
19. Izack Tago
20. Charlie Staines
21. Brent Naden

Team Changes

IN: Brent Naden, Charlie Staines, Matthew Eisenhuth, Mitch Kenny, Spencer Leniu
OUT: Scott Sorensen, Tyrone May

Rabbitohs

1. Blake Taaffe
2. Alex Johnston
3. Dane Gagai
4. Campbell Graham
5. Jaxson Paulo
6. Cody Walker
7. Adam Reynolds
8. Mark Nicholls
9. Damien Cook
10. Tevita Tatola
11. Keaon Koloamatangi
12. Jaydn Su’A
13. Cameron Murray
14. Benji Marshall
15. Jacob Host
16. Thomas Burgess
17. Jai Arrow
18. Jed Cartwright
19. Braidon Burns
20. Lachlan Ilias
21. Patrick Mago

Team Changes

IN: Adam Reynolds, Alex Johnston, Cameron Murray, Cody Walker, Damien Cook, Dane Gagai, Keaon Koloamatangi, Thomas Burgess
OUT:
Davvy Moale, Dean Hawkins, Peter Mamouzelos, Taane Milne, Tautau Moga

Referee: Gerard Sutton

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Panthers

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Scott Sorensen and Tyrone May both picked up injuries last week with Mitch Kenny and Spencer Leniu taking their spots on the bench. The Panthers were never really tested in last week’s 40-6 win over the Eels, with their opponents making the decision to rest a number of their starters. They face a much tougher test this week against a Rabbitohs side with plenty to prove. Anything less than a premiership will be seen as a disappointment for the Panthers this year, but a win this week against South Sydney – who they have already beat twice this season – will go a long way to setting up another grand final berth.

Rabbitohs

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Adam Reynolds, Alex Johnston, Cody Walker, Damien Cook, Dane Gagai, Thomas Burgess, Jai Arrow, Cameron Murray and Keaon Koloamatangi are all back after taking the week off last week. Despite the majority of their starters not playing, the Rabbitohs still managed a 20-16 win over the Dragons last week. Blake Taaffe has been named in the all important no. 1 jersey and has a big job ahead of him filling in for Latrell Mitchell. Last time the two sides met, the Rabbitohs raced out to an early 12-0 lead but were unable to hold on as the Panthers raced home to win 25-12. They will need to complete a full 80-minute performance if they want a free ride through to the preliminary final.

PREVIEW

The Panthers have got the better of the Rabbitohs in both meetings this season but that all goes out the window as finals are a whole new ball game. Both sides have proven they can score points in bunches but this match will be decided by which side can hold the momentum for longer periods of time.

For the Rabbitohs, a lot of pressure will be on Taaffe at the back. Their premiership chances took a big blow when Mitchell was suspended for the rest of the season, and now Taaffe will have to deal with one of the best kickers in the game. Nathan Cleary is sure to send plenty of bombs Taaffe’s way and he will need to limit any mistakes as to not allow the Panthers scoring chances.

The battle of the five-eighths will be an incredibly exciting match-up to watch. Walker’s stats have been off the charts this season, leading the league with try assists with 33. Luai has yet to regain his form from the first half of the season that saw him selected for the Blues, but if he can find his dangerous running game again, the Panthers will have plenty of opportunities.

KEY STAT

In finals footy defence becomes key, and that’s where Panthers have the advantage. They had the best defence in the competition, allowing 286 points while the Rabbitohs have allowed 453.

PREDICTION

The Rabbitohs will want revenge after the Panthers knocked them out in last year’s preliminary final, while the Panthers will hope to continue their recent good record against the Rabbitohs. Finals are a different beast and this game will likely be tight throughout the 80 minutes, but the Panthers should be too good, especially with no Latrell Mitchell for the Bunnies. 

Panthers by 4

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