Lachlan Jeffery previews the grand final qualifier between Penrith and South Sydney to be played at Accor Stadium.
Penrith Panthers Vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney.
Date: Saturday September 24, 7:50pm
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. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Mitch Kenny 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Jaeman Salmon 18. Sean O’Sullivan 19. Matt Eisenhuth 20. J’maine Hopgood 21. Sunia Turuva 22. Chris Smith
Charlie Staines will take the place of the suspended Taylan May on the wing in the Panthers only change from the qualifying final two weeks ago.Embed from Getty Images
Rabbitohs: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Isaiah Tass 4. Campbell Graham 5. Taane Milne 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray 14. Kodi Nikorima 15. Hame Sele 16. Michael Chee Kam 17. Jed Cartwright 18. Davvy Moale 19. Blake Taaffe 20. Josh Mansour 21. Richard Kennar 22. Jacob Host
Siliva Havili has been ruled out due to a calf injury suffered against the Sharks last weekend, with Jed Cartwright named to return from a hamstring injury on the bench. Jai Arrow has been named and is likely to play despite the reoccurrence of a groin issue, while Alex Johnston has also been named on the wing after picking up a hip-flexor injury against the Sharks, with Josh Mansour and Richard Kennar both named amongst the reserves if he fails to play.
Referee: Ashley Klein
Coming off the back of a week off following their win over Parramatta, the Panthers will be well-rested and ready to go in attempting to qualify for their third-straight grand final for the first time in the club’s history.
The Panthers will go into the match full of confidence, having won eight of the past nine matches between the two sides, with the only loss coming in last year’s qualifying final in Townsville, before overturning that result in the grand final three weeks later. Their recent record at Accor Stadium will also give them confidence, having won six of their past seven matches there, though they’ve only played at the venue once since the 2020 grand final loss to Melbourne.
The Rabbitohs enter their fifth straight preliminary final after coming from outside the top 4, having beaten an injury-ravaged Sydney Roosters in the elimination final, before comfortably putting away the Sharks 38-12 in a strong defensive effort in the semi-final.
They have some concerns in their squad, with Tom Burgess still suspended and Siliva Havili already being ruled out due to injury, however Jai Arrow had scans on a groin injury but expects to play. Alex Johnston suffered a hip flexor injury before halftime against the Sharks that deteriorated after the break but will be given every chance to play the preliminary final by coach Jason Demetriou.
“‘AJ’ will be given right up until captain’s run and he’d be 50/50 at the moment,” Demetriou said before naming the side on Tuesday.
“‘AJ’ feels a lot better today than he did yesterday. We just don’t know until he runs, and he won’t run until Friday. He’ll need to run Friday.”
Despite nominally being a Penrith home game, the match will be played at the Rabbitohs home ground, where they have won eight of ten matches this year, though they haven’t played there since round 24, having played their past three matches away at Allianz Stadium. Their record in finals at Accor is good, having won seven of ten, however they’ve lost three of the four preliminary finals they’ve played there.
Overall, the Panthers should be too strong for a Rabbitohs side playing their fifth straight preliminary final.Embed from Getty Images
This will mark the fourth year in a row that the previous year’s grand finalists have met during the following year’s finals.
In 2021, the Panthers ended the Storm’s title defence in the preliminary final, while in 2020 the Raiders did likewise to the Roosters in the semi-final. In 2019, however, the Roosters knocked on Melbourne in the preliminary final on their way to back-to-back premierships.
Panthers by 8.
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