#VBNSWCup Round 14 preview: Penrith Panthers vs Newcastle Knights

ROUND 14 v Newcastle Knights @ Pepper Stadium, Saturday 13th June @ 3PM

Its 1 v 4 as Penrith finally return back to Pepper Stadium for the first time since Round 7 for this Saturday’s second grand final replay of the season against an inform Newcastle Knights side with kick-off at 3pm.

The Panthers will be keen to avenge for their earlier season loss to the Knights back in Round 4 when the Panthers overcame one of their poorest first halves of the season to date trailing just 16-0 before drawing level late in the game before a fortuitous penalty was gifted to Newcastle win 18-16 after the full-time siren.

Penrith come into this clash having won six from their last seven to take over from Mounties as competition front-runners despite an injury toll that continues to play havoc with the weekly availability of players for coach Garth Brennan.

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.

Newcastle have had an indifferent year having lost two of their last three before pulling off their most impressive win of the season to date, defeating former table-leaders Mounties 34-22 at home and will come into this clash, feeling confident about doing the double over the defending premiers.

They boast the competition’s 7th best attacking record averaging just under 23 points per game while they are the 3rd best defensive side in the NSW Cup but still managing to concede over 6 points per game scored.

Newcastle on paper look by far the more settled side with only four changes in personnel for this clash including the likes of Paterika VaiVai and Chanel Mata’utia while Nathan Ross and Carlos Tuimavave among others will miss this clash.

Penrith on the other hand have made 6 changes to that side beaten by the Knights; especially with the backs with the likes of Waqa Blake, David Simmons, Robert Jennings, Nu’u Akeripa (retired), George Jennings and Pat Hollis all replaced by Adrian Davis, Eddie Aiono, Geoff Daniela (back for his third stint as a Panther), Maliko Filino, Isaac John, and the Wellington Brothers, Stanton and Wellington.

Penrith have named a reshuffled side for this clash as they look to overcome another serious lower leg injury to Kieran Moss, with Andy Saunders coming back into the 17.

Nathan Smith, is among just three players from last year’s premiership winning side that contains 5 players with 109 NRL games between them.

The full squad is as follows:

1 WILL SMITH 2 EDDIE AIONO 3 CHRIS SMITH 4 GEOFF DANIELA 5 MALIKO FILINO 6 ISAAC JOHN

7 ADRIAN DAVIS 8 RODNEY COATES 9 SAM SCARLETT 10 STANTON ALBERT 11 BRENDAN ATTWOOD

12 TUPOU SOPOAGA 13 LEILANI LATU

INTERCHANGE: 14 ANDY SAUNDERS 15 NATHAN SMITH 16 WELLINGTON ALBERT

17 MATT EISENHUTH

COACH GARTH BRENNAN

The Knights have named a strong side for their second grand final replay in 2015 against the defending premiers. Eight players with 234 games of NRL experience including former Panthers, back-rower Clint Newton has 164 games to this credit, more than Penrith’s entire number of games played in 2015 and overall.

The full squad is as follows:

1 JAKE MAMO 2 HONETI TUHA 3 PAT MATA’UTIA 4 CHANEL MATA’UTIA 5 KERROD HOLLAND

6 DYLAN PHYTHIAN 7 JAELEN FEENEY 8 SAM MATAORA 9 CHAD REDMAN 10 PATERIKA VAIVAI

11 LACHLAN FITZGIBBON 12 JOSEPH TAPINE 13 CLINT NEWTON (C)

INTERCHANGE: 14 DANNY KERR 15 MICHAEL STEELE 16 MARVIN FILIPO 20 JAKE FINN

COACH MATT LANTRY

Honours are fairly even between the two sides with no one team having won two in a row against their opponents hence a Penrith side is overdue for the win over a team many believe is capable of going all the way and will be a great occasion for the younger brigade to express their excitement around Origin time.

The danger for Penrith this week will be the need to contain a potent Newcastle Knights backline led by Jake Mamo and the Mata’utia brothers, Pat and Chanel, but if Penrith can avoid turning over cheap possession as they did in the Round 4 encounter, I expect the Panthers to continue on their winning ways in 2015 to win this clash by 6 points.

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