#VBNSWCup Preview: Penrith Panthers vs North Sydney Bears

ROUND 2 v North Sydney Bears @ Carrington Park, Saturday 14th Mar @ 2:10PM (1:10PM QLD)

Penrith hit the road to Bathurst to take on the surprise packets of Round 1, North Sydney who easily accounted for NSW Cup heavyweights Wentworthville in the own backyard.

Penrith got a taste of what life will be like for the defending NSW Cup champions in season 2015 as Canterbury never gave up and nearly forced a draw before going down 26-20 after trailing at one stage 26-12. Norths shocked Wentworthville with a commanding 24-0 lead last start before holding off a mini-comeback from the Magpies to win 30-14.

Penrith will have to win this game without the services of star fullback Kieran Moss who is out for 6-8 weeks with a fractured foot. Fortunately Garth Brennan has the versatile Will Smith on hand to replace Moss at fullback. Also expect some late changes with some players in doubt for this game headed by Andy Saunders who suffered a training mishap and looks set to miss this game.

Garth Brennan has selected five of last year’s premiership winning side for this game and the announced team contains 6 players having played 157 NRL games under their belt experience. No doubt the likes of Adam Docker, Waqa Blake and Sam Anderson will be better for the run given it was their first hit outs for 2015. Eddie Aiono returns in a backline shuffle that sees Robert Jennings moved to play in his preferred position of centre while Liam Ayoub has been named to replace Apisai Koroisau although it remains to be seen whether the former Souths rake will pass a late fitness test & take on his former teammates.

The full squad is as follows:

  1. WILL SMITH 2. CHRISTIAN CRICHTON 3. ROBERT JENNINGS 4. WAQA BLAKE 5. EDDIE AIONO
  2. ISAAC JOHN 7. ADRIAN DAVIS 8. SAM ANDERSON 9. LIAM AYOUB 10. LEILANI LATU
  3. TUPOU SOPOAGA 12. BEN MURDOCH-MASILA 13. ADAM DOCKER

INTERCHANGE:

  1. ANDY SAUNDERS 15. RODNEY COATES 16. JAMES FISHER-HARRIS 17. NU’U AKERIPA 19. CHRIS SMITH (1 to be omitted)

COACH: GARTH BRENNAN

Norths have named another strong side to take on the Panthers including former Panther lower graders Michael Ross and Nikko Roberts (whose cousin James will play in the NRL against his former club Penrith) alongside some talent short on NRL experience having just 5 games between them but exciting nonetheless in Setefano Taukafa, Dane Chang, Aaron Gray, Sam Manulelelua, Matt Hyland, Nathan Brown, Scott Sorensen and Nathaniel Neale. It remains to seen whether Souths coach Michael McGuire will release any of his named 20 man squad that plays against the Roosters the next day for this clash including former Panther fan favourite Tim Grant who did play last week for North Sydney.

The full squad is as follows:

  1. SETEFANO TAUKAFA 2. DANE CHANG 3. LATRELL SCHAUMKEL 4. AARON GRAY
  2. SAM MANULELEUA 6. BRAD WALL 7. NIKKO ROBERTS 8. JESSE ROBERTS 9 .MATT HYLAND ©
  3. NATHAN BROWN 11. BROCK GRAY 12. SCOTT SORENSEN 13. CHEYNE WHITELAW

INTERCHANGE: 14. NATHANIEL NEALE 15. MICHAEL ROSS 16. DUNCAN LOW 17. JACK GOSIEWSKI

  1. KILIFI TIA KILIFI

COACH: WAYNE LAMBKIN

In 2014, Penrith won both games – the first game was a close affair but it was all Penrith in the return game at the then Sportingbet Stadium notching up their biggest win of the season against a hapless Bears outfit but it definitely won’t be no picnic for the Panthers against the Bears in what should be a warm afternoon this Saturday in Bathurst. The Bears need to be treated with respect otherwise the upset is on the cards but Penrith should get home but by no great margin of 8 points.

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