The Panthers and Raiders head out to Wagga Wagga for this important round eight clash. Jem Nash previews …
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Last week’s loss ended a four-game winning streak for the Raiders, but there’s no doubting they’re a different side in 2019. They won’t be happy about losing to a Manly team that played the second half without Daly Cherry-Evans, so they’ll be fired up for this one.
It’s difficult to understand what’s happening out at Penrith. They still have one of the more talented squads on paper in the competition, but are struggling to put it together on the field. A lot of eyes are on the Panthers halves but defence is still a key issue. If they can cut down their missed tackles and create a sturdy goal line defence, their attack should come.
Canberra Raiders squad: 1 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Jarrod Croker, 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Bailey Simonsson, 6 Jack Wighton, 7 Sam Williams, 8 Josh Papalii, 9 Josh Hodgson, 10 Dunamis Lui, 11 John Bateman, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Ryan Sutton Interchange: 14 Siliva Havili, 15 Hudson Young, 16 Iosia Soliola, 17 Corey Horsburgh Reserves: 18 Aidan Sezer, 19 Michael Oldfield, 20 Emre Guler, 21 Jack Murchie
The Panthers have named an unchanged lineup from last week’s loss to the Rabbitohs.
Penrith Panthers squad: 1 Caleb Aikens, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 4 Waqa Blake, 5 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Wayde Egan, 10 Tim Grant, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 James Fisher-Harris Interchange: 14 Sione Katoa, 15 Liam Martin, 16 Moses Leota, 17 Reagan Campbell-Gillard Reserves: 18. Jarome Luai, 19. Kaide Ellis, 20. Dylan Edwards, 21. Tyrell Fuimaono.
HEAD TO HEAD
The Panthers have won the last four matches between the sides, all in absolute thrillers. In 2018, a Nathan Cleary field goal was the difference in the first game (23-22), before four tries in the final 20 minutes sealed the game for Penrith in Round 21. Going back to 2017, who could forget the Bathurst thriller in which the Panthers scored two tries in the final two minutes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? The Panthers also enjoyed a 26-22 win over Canberra in Round 24 of that year.
There’s interesting battles all across the park in this clash, but it’s hard to ignore two of the most damaging back rowers in the game going head-to-head. Viliame Kikau and John Bateman will line up opposite one another in a one-on-one battle that could very easily decide the game.
Bateman has already established himself as one of the premier forwards in the competition while Kikau’s incredible solo try against the Rabbitohs last week is something that Panthers and NRL fans have just become used to.
There’s no doubting Kikau is the Panthers’ most damaging weapon, and if Bateman and his nearby Raiders defenders can hold the monster Fijian in check, then they will put their side in a fantastic position to win this game.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday, May 4
Venue: McDonalds Park
Referee: Grant Atkins, David Munro
WHO WILL WIN?
The Panthers are slowly improving but the Raiders will be fired up after their disappointing loss last week. Coach Ricky Stuart will want his side to respond, and if their defence stands up, they have enough attacking threats to worry the Panthers all game.
Raiders by 8