PREVIEW: Penrith Panthers vs New Zealand Warriors

Penrith Panthers for a second consecutive round travel ‘away’ for their home fixture when they face New Zealand Warriors on their home soil at AMI Park in Christchurch.  Both sides have four wins apiece and more importantly coming into the game having won last start.

LAST TIME OUT

Bathurst’s Carrington Park was the venue for Penrith Panthers contest with Canberra Raiders.  Penrith took the half-time lead thanks to tries from Bryce Cartwright and Tyrone Peachey.  Cartwright catching the eye of New South Wales selectors with another strong game with his try from long range outpacing some of the quickest backs in the competition.  Peter Hiku’s try fifteen after the break gave the Panthers a twelve point lead and it looked certain they would go on to record a big win.  However as the norm in 2016, Penrith had to work hard with Canberra scoring two late tries and being denied another.  Peter Wallace slotting a field goal near full-time to give his side a thrilling 19-18 victory.

For the Warriors it was a turbulent week with several players dropped, Manu Vatuvei ultimately approved personal leave.  All coming off the back of a poor loss in Melbourne on ANZAC Day.  As we see so often in rugby league, the rubber band bounced back after a heavy loss and the Warriors accounted for St George-Illawarra 26-10 at Mount Smart Stadium.  Three first half tries to Shaun Johnson, Charlie Gubb and Mitch Allwood gave the Warriors the upper hand against a Dragons side that couldn’t convert opportunities into points.  Jezz Tevaga having a strong game in replacing Isaac Luke at hooker.

KEY BATTLES

Peter Wallace at thirty years of age looked like he was on the outer with the Panthers with Anthony Griffin coming on board.  When James Segeyaro was injured, Wallace stepped into the hooking role with great effect.  Time has not aged Wallace as he reaches form that Panther fans similar to his first stint with the club.  His direct opponent Shaun Johnson isn’t having a happy season.  On Friday night he was unable to lift the under-strength Kiwis as they went down 0-16 in Newcastle.  He needs to lift his side this weekend against a Panthers side which won’t be unforgiving after a sloppy finish in Bathurst.

Both hookers have the ability to open up the game.  James Segeyaro in his return in Bathurst provided a missing dimension out of dummy half, challenging the Raiders defence when he was injected into the game.  He’ll be better for the run last match.  Jezz Tevaga looks a future representative player for New Zealand with some impressive games with Isaac Luke out.  He will be up for this game, playing in front of his home town of Christchurch.  Will the apprentice outplay the master?

PREDICTION

Panther fans will be hoping this week is the ‘breakthrough’ week as they continue their run of final margins being under ten points.  They probably deserve to start favourites against the unpredictable Warriors.  A big game for Jamie Soward and Shaun Johnson who are playing without confidence.  Bryce Cartwright should be able to lead the Panthers to victory in this one with offloads the key to success.

Panthers by 10.

SQUADS

Panthers: 1 Matthew Moylan 2 Josh Mansour 3 Waqa Blake 4 Peta Hiku 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 6 Jamie Soward 7 Peter Wallace 8 Sam McKendry 9 James Segeyaro 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11 Bryce Cartwright 12 Isaah Yeo 13 Trent Merrin Interchange: 14 Tyrone Peachey 15 Jeremy Latimore 16 Lelani Latu 17 James Fisher 20 Suaia Matagi

Warriors: 1 Tui Lolohea 2 Jonathan Wright 3 Blake Ayshford 4 Solomone Kata 5 David Fusitu’a 6 Thomas Leuluai 7 Shaun Johnson 8 Jacob Lillyman 9 Jazz Tevaga 10 James Gavet 11 Bodene Thompson 12 Ryan Hoffman (c) 13 John Palavi. Interchange: 14 Issac Luke 15 Ben Matulino 16 Charlie Gubb 17 Shaun Lane 18 Matt Allwood

Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 3pm AEST, 5pm NZ

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