NSW CUP MATCH PREVIEW
ROUND 19 v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs @ Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday 18th July @ 3PM
NSW Cup competition leaders Penrith, will be looking to getting their season back on track after agonising consecutive losses to Wyong, when they travel to Belmore to take on the resurgent 5th placed Bulldogs outfit that will be keen to announce their premiership credentials having won 5 of their last 7.
The Bulldogs, despite having lost their past four games against Penrith teams, are along with Wyong, a side that the Panthers struggle with at this level and come into this clash with plenty of confidence having defeated fellow top eight aspirants Newtown 30-26.
In contrast, Penrith’s mid-season stumble continued last week when Wyong Roos once again snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a last minute try to win 22-20 in what was an absorbing clash at Pepper Stadium, having won 19-18 via a last minute field goal at Central Coast Stadium two weeks earlier.
Two key aspects to Penrith’s game needs to improve at the moment; their ability to close out games and their goal-kicking. Last week, it was four tries apiece yet Penrith’s Adrian Davis and Will Smith both struggled with the boot, kicking just two goals between them. The prior game saw Penrith outscore Wyong 4 tries to 3 but goal-kicking again let the Panthers down in their one point loss.
Having said that, Penrith in both their last two games have invited the opposition to snatch these wins on the back of poor completions, ill-discipline and failure to lock the ball carrier in defence.
The loss has allowed the New Zealand Warriors to join Penrith at the top of the table on 26 points but Penrith’s superior for and against still sees them in the top spot for now but face a difficult run into the finals with five of their last six games against top eight opponents.
Injuries continue to pile up for the Panthers at NSW Cup level as it does at the NRL level, having lost Moses Leota (bruised bicep – 1-2 weeks) and Geoff Daniela (shoulder – season) for this clash. In fact, the Panthers are currently missing the likes of Kieran Moss, George Jennings, Sam Anderson and Rodney Coates for this clash while Adam Docker, Nathan Smith, Wellington Albert, Geoff Daniela and Nu’u Akeripa are either out for the season or indefinitely.
Penrith only have six players returning for this return clash against the Bulldogs including just three with only 116 NRL games experience, which illustrates just how injuries have ravaged the Panthers across all grades in 2015. Just two Penrith players, Andy Saunders and Leilani Latu who played in the NSW Cup Grand Final last year return for this clash and the game represents an opportunity for Latu to play against his former team-mates.
In team news, Daniela and Leota are out, replaced by Stanley Waqa (former Roosters prop, currently playing Ron Massey Cup for Blacktown) and Daniel Foster makes his first NSW Cup appearance after a serious knee injury, with both players starting from the interchange bench in a reshuffled Panthers side.
Robert Jennings and Will Smith were named to play this game but having played NRL last night there will be further changes to Penrith’s line-up. In addition, prop Sam Hollis was named on a five-man bench but expect him to also withdraw given his selection in the Ron Massey Cup representative side that will take on Queensland.
The full squad is as follows:
1 ADRIAN DAVIS 2 EDDIE AIONO 3 TBC 4 CHRIS SMITH 5 MALAKAI WATENE-ZELEZNIAK 6 TBC
7 WILL SMITH 8 MATT EISENHUTH 9 SIONE KATOA 10 LEILANI LATU 11 BRENDAN ATTWOOD
12 BEN MURDOCH- MASILA 13 TUPOU SOPOAGA
INTERCHANGE: 14 ANDY SAUNDERS 15 STANLEY WAQA 16 MALIKO FALINO 17 DANIEL FOSTER
19 SAM HOLLIS (ONE TO BE OMITTED)
COACH GARTH BRENNAN
In contrast to Penrith’s injury woes, the Bulldogs team for this level of competition have an incredibly settled look about them, having named 14 of the 17 players who played in that narrow loss to Penrith way back in Round 1, including 11 players with 316 NRL games experience.
The likes of Chase Stanley, Jacob Loko and Corey Thompson will be looking to capitalise from any opportunities created by their tough pack of forwards led by Antonio Kaufusi, Lloyd Perrett and Damien Cook.
The full squad is as follows:
1 JALINE GRAHAM 2 TYRONE PHILLIPS 3 CHASE STANLEY 4 JACOB LOKO 5 COREY THOMPSON
6 MATT FRAWLEY 7 DANE CHISHOLM 8 ANTONIO KAUFUSI 9 DAMIEN COOK 10 DANNY FUALALO
11 DAVID MINUTE 12 ADAM ELLIOTT 13 LLOYD PERRETT
INTERCHANGE: 14 LEVI DODD 15 MAKAHESI MAKATOA 16 HERMAN ESE’ESE 17 JASON SCHIRNACK
19 BRAD CLARK
COACH ANDREW PATMORE
This game should be a terrific clash between the competition’s best defensive team; with Penrith conceding just 16 points per game, up against the competition’s second best attack, with the Bulldogs averaging 26 points per game.
Once again it’s a game where the opposition look stronger on paper but Penrith coach Garth Brennan has done a brilliant job to steer this side to the top of the ladder. However the continuous run of injuries against Penrith might prove to be too much a hurdle to overcome against a side that is experienced and in form.