The Panthers having had the second of three scheduled competition byes, resume their defence of the NSW Cup when they travel to Central Coast Stadium this Sunday to take on Sydney Roosters’ feeder club, Wyong Roos in a battle of 1 v 5.
The timing of this game (4:30pm) is odd to say the least as it has been scheduled to kick-off 30 minutes after the conclusion of the NRL game between Sydney Roosters and Gold Coast. Most NSW Cup games if played at a NRL game-day venue will preclude the main game.
The Panthers went into the bye having avenged their early season loss to Newcastle winning the Grand Final Replay, 30-24 at Pepper Stadium while Wyong Roos come into this clash continuing on their winning ways in defeating Manly away from home 38-26.
This clash has proven to be fiery clash in recent years. In 2014 honours were shared between the sides with the home team winning on both occasions; Wyong defeated Penrith 30-26 before the Panthers returned the favour defeating the Roos 32-24, a match highlighted by the controversial suspension handed out to Dallin Watene-Zelezniak after then Roos skipper, Jay Florimo made an on-field allegation he had been eye-gouged in the last minute of play.
This game also represents a battle between the competition’s two best defensive teams; Penrith’s climb to the top of the table has been built all around their defence, conceding just 15 points per game with Wyong having conceded just 19 points per game.
While Wyong do have the slight advantage in attack, such is the strength of Penrith’s defence in conceding just on 15 points per game, they have the best differential in the competition – +83 points.
Penrith come into this clash having won seven from their last eight and a win here could see the Panthers extend their lead to four points over second-placed New Zealand Warriors. But Wyong will be no push overs themselves having won four of their last five and a win over the defending premiers will see the Roos move into the top four.
Whilst Penrith continue to struggle in attack averaging just over 21 points per game, they have managed to build wins based on their defence (conceding just under 15 points per game) to now lead the NSW Cup.
In team news, injuries and suspension have forced Penrith to make several changes for this clash. Robert Jennings returns from injury to take his place in the centres but the suspension of hooker Sione Katoa and yet another injury to Adam Docker sees a reshuffle to the starting pack. Matt Eisenhuth comes onto the bench with Andy Saunders promoted to start at prop, Leilani Latu moving back to lock, Chris Smith comes into the back-row and Brendan Attwood moves to hooker. Wellington Albert is also out for season, having had shoulder reconstruction surgery during the week and is replaced on the bench by Atonio Pelasasa.
Such are the extent of injuries at the moment, just three players from last year’s grand final winning side – Sam Anderson, Leilani Latu and Andy Saunders and Nathan Smith have been named for this clash. Penrith have named 6 players with 112 NRL games experience between them.
The full squad is as follows:
1 ADRIAN DAVIS 2 EDDIE AIONO 3 ROBERT JENNINGS 4 GEOFF DANIELA 5 MALIKO FILINO
6 ISAAC JOHN 7 WILL SMITH 8 SAM ANDERSON 9 BRENDAN ATTWOOD 10 ANDY SAUNDERS
11 CHRIS SMITH 12 TUPOU SOPOAGA 13 LEILANI LATU
INTERCHANGE: 14 STANTON ALBERT 15 MATT EISENHUTH 16 RODNEY COATES
17 ATONIO PELASASA
COACH GARTH BRENNAN
Conversely, Wyong coach Rip Taylor has named a very strong team, including the likes of Samisoni Langi, Lagi Setu, Mitch Williams, Matt McIlwrick as well as recent recruits Omar Slaimankhel and Lopini Paea and their aggressive style of play especially in the forwards will be a good test for the Panthers.
It wouldn’t surprise if Brendon Elliott and Suaia Matagi are late inclusions as will be dynamic forward utility Abraham Papalii for a Wyong side that already boasts five players with 201 NRL games of experience for this clash.
The full squad is as follows:
1 OMAR SLAIMANKHEL 2 KIEREN GALLAGHER 3 CHRIS CENTRONE 4 BENNETT LESLIE
5 MATT IKUVALU 6 SAMISONI LANGI 7 TYLER CORNISH 8 MAGNUS STROMQUIST
9 MITCH WILLIAMS © 10 ELONI VUNAKECE 11 LAGI SETU 12 LEIVAHA PULU 13 JACK SIEJKA
INTERCHANGE: 14 BROCK MOLAN 15 SHAUN BOSS 16 MATT MCILWRICK 17 LOPINI PAEA
21 ABRAHAM PAPALII (ONE TO BE OMITTED)
COACH RIP TAYLOR
This should be a terrific clash between two in-form teams but if Penrith can play from in-front and maintain intensity both when in possession and in defence, they should be able to come away with what will be a very tough two competition points to earn against a side that never goes away.