Nathan Smith previews the western Sydney derby between the Penrith Panthers and Parramatta Eels. Here’s what we have to look forward to…
Penrith Panthers Vs Parramatta Eels
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
Date: Friday 6th May, 7:55pm (local)
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Related: NRL Team List TuesdayEmbed from Getty Images
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Charlie Staines 3. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Taylan May 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Matt Eisenhuth 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Soni Luke 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Jaeman Salmon 18. Robert Jennings 19. Chris Smith 20. J’maine Hopgood 21. Sean O’Sullivan 22. Moses Leota 23. Mitch Kenny 24. Brian To’o
Ivan Cleary has named the same team that beat the Titans last week. Moses Leota and Brian To’o find themselves in the extended squad and may possibly feature on Friday night.Embed from Getty Images
Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Hayze Perham 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Tom Opacic 5. Bailey Simonsson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali’i 13. Nathan Brown 14. Makahesi Makatoa 15. Ryan Matterson 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Bryce Cartwright 18. Wiremu Greig 19. Jakob Arthur 20. Mitch Rein 21. Ky Rodwell 22. Samuel Loizou 23. Elie El Zakhem 24. Sean Russell
Tom Opacic returns to the side, allowing the Eels to play Dylan Brown in his preferred five-eighth position. Jake Arthur drops out and Sean Russell finds himself in the extended squad as he edges closer to being fit to play.
Referee: Gerard Sutton
You don’t need to say much to hype up this one. Western Sydney derby sums it up. The rivalry and hatred has existed ever since the Panthers entered the competition in 1967. The foot of the mountains against the river city.
Their last match was lauded as the game of the year. The 2021 semi-final clash between the two sides saw a low scoring, bruising encounter that the Panthers ended up winning by a single penalty goal. There’s no doubt the Eels will remember that match, and how much it hurt, coming into this one.
Unfortunately, the Eels aren’t coming into this game in red hot form. Last week saw their first comprehensive loss of the year when the Cowboys downed them in Darwin. Strangled by injuries, their form five-eighth Dylan Brown was forced to play at centre as a result. This week he returns to six, with Tom Opacic back in centre, allowing the Eels to field a much more effective side.
The Panthers, still undefeated, showed some signs of mortality last week. It was a rare off game, with 12 errors across 80 minutes. Though they scraped away with the win, they would be desperately upset at the performance, knowing full well it’s not up to the standards they’ve set for themselves over the past 18 months.
The battle to watch will be between the two forward packs. In their semi-final match, it was a fierce encounter in the middle that one could rule all but a stalemate. Naturally, Penrith’s stand out prop is James Fisher-Harris, who is averaging 118 metres per game and has made seven tackle busts. If he’s running forward and doing his job as you’d expect, Nathan Cleary is going to have a night out.
The Eels’ co-captain Junior Paulo will be determined to lead his team to a win. Last week, the Eels’ forwards were accused of losing the battle in the middle, which was noted as one of the reasons the game got away from them. This is a moment to make a statement. With 116 metres per game, Paulo hasn’t quite reached Fisher-Harris’ numbers’, but is a whisker behind. Expect him to be fired up.
This will be a huge atmosphere with a sold-out crowd expected at Penrith. There are obviously competition points to play for, but it goes deeper than that if you’re a fan. Westies are a proud bunch and often convinced that their suburb is the best. It’s this match that determines which part of the west gets to gloat for the next couple of months, before their next encounter.Embed from Getty Images
- The overall head to head stats goes Parramatta’s way, with the Eels having won 58 of their 103 encounters.
- The Panthers have defeated the Eels in their last three encounters.
- The two sides have met at BlueBet Stadium 50 times, which is all but split with 25 wins to the Panthers, 24 wins to the Eels, and one draw.
- The Panthers are aiming for their 12th straight win and 22nd straight win at home.
Penrith Panthers 1-12
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