MATCH PREVIEW | Penrith Panthers vs Canberra Raiders

Andrew Pelechaty previews the Sunday afternoon blockbuster between Penrith and Canberra, the final game of round 19.

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Penrith Panthers

Arguably the NRL’s form team (outside of Melbourne), Penrith are riding a seven-game winning streak (beating Parramatta, Manly-Warringah, Sydney Roosters, South Sydney, NZ Warriors, Gold Coast, and St. George-Illawarra). They haven’t lost since Friday May 17 (a 30-10 home loss to the Warriors). It echoes their 2017 season, where they started badly, then won 11 of their last 15 to finish seventh and make the semi-finals. While they’ve risen to seventh again this season (with a 9-8 record), their differential is -49, a concern with such a tight log between fifth and thirteenth.

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Canberra Raiders

Canberra (11-6) have sat in the top four for almost the whole season. They celebrated a big night at GIO Stadium last Saturday, with the majority of the 1989 premiership-winning side watching them beat the Wests Tigers 20-12. Canberra fed off the emotion after a month on the road, racing to a 20-6 halftime lead. While they were scoreless in the second half, their defence was good enough, though a few unforced errors stopped them from putting Wests away earlier. It was their fifth win from their last six games. Previously ignored on free-to-air TV, they will enjoy another Channel Nine appearance, a sign they’re being taken seriously again.

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Penrith Panthers

No changes for Penrith, though Viliame Kikau could be in trouble with his dangerous contact charge.

Penrith Panthers’ squad: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Dean Whare 4. Brent Naden 5. Brian To’o 6. James Maloney 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Frank Winterstein 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Wayde Egan 15. Jarome Luai 16. Moses Leota 17. Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

Canberra Raiders

No changes for Canberra after their win over the Wests Tigers.

Canberra Raiders’ squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Michael Oldfield 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Iosia Soliola 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Siliva Havili 15. Emre Guler 16. Corey Horsburgh 17. Dunamis Lui.


Penrith and Canberra have enjoyed an entertaining rivalry recently. It started in 2016, with Canberra knocking Penrith out in the Bruce Stadium semi-final. Penrith claimed both games in 2017: the Bathurst miracle comeback (or ‘nightmare’ if you ask Raiders fan), and ending Canberra’s faint finals hopes with a 26-22 win at Bruce in round 24. Penrith won two more classics in 2018: 23-22 in round 8 at Bruce, and a ridiculous 40-31 scoreline at Penrith in round 21, again ending Canberra’s faint finals hopes.

Canberra rebounded in round 8 this year. Taking their home game to Wagga, they comfortably won 30-12.

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Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad vs Dylan Edwards

Probably the buy of the year, CNK (also know as ‘The Green Arrow’ and ‘Tick Tock’ among fans) looks like continuing Canberra’s proud tradition of fullbacks. The former Warrior has played every game this year and been almost faultless at the back – in at-times trying conditions – scoring nine tries. His off-field generosity makes him an even bigger legend at Bruce.

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Dylan Edwards has been equally important in Penrith’s winning run. He’s played in all of Penrith’s nine wins, scoring four tries. After a nightmare off-season and rough opening 10 rounds, Edwards provides the stability that Penrith needs. Both fullbacks are likely to be peppered on Sunday afternoon, so whoever holds their nerve will go a long way to deciding this one.

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Date: Sunday July 28.
Venue: Penrith Stadium.
Kick-off: 4:05pm.


Like a repeat viewing of ‘Marge vs. the Monorail’, this game has CLASSIC written all over it. A hopefully beautiful Sunday afternoon (always favourable to open, attacking footy) with two teams in fine form. Penrith’s recent domination of Canberra, plus the comforts of a home game, should just tip this in their favour.

Penrith by two.


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