Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs vs Penrith Panthers: Lineups, preview & prediction
ANZ Stadium, Friday 23rd March, 6pm AEDT.
One is undefeated; the other is yet to taste victory in the 2018 season. This one should be easy to predict but the fact of the matter is the Panthers have yet to hit top gear during their first up wins over Parramatta and South Sydney while the Bulldogs have put together some decent passages of play against two heavyweights in Melbourne and the Roosters.
Under Dean Pay, the new look Bulldogs have taken time to find their identity and will continue to try and work out exactly who they are this week with Matt Frawley dumped completely from the initial 21-man squad and Jeremy Marshall-King shifted into the halves alongside prize-recruit Kieran Foran.
Skipper Josh Jackson has been inspirational for the home side and will likely churn his way through another mountain of work against the big, young Panthers forward pack while the toughness and grit being instilled by Dean Pay since he took the reins from Des Hasler has been evident in small patches but is far from where the wily first-year coach will want from his troops.
The Panthers, meanwhile, have benefitted from a range of exuberant young stars who have performed above expectations so far like Waqa Blake and Viliame Kikau alongside the able halfback Nathan Cleary who continues to go from strength to strength.
2017 – Round 21 – Penrith Panthers 16 def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 8 at Panthers Stadium
2017 – Round 13 – Penrith Panthers 38 def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 0 at ANZ Stadium
2016 – Qualifying Final – Penrith Panthers 28 def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 12 at Allianz Stadium
2016 – Round 2 – Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 18 def. Penrith Panthers 16 at Panthers Stadium
2015 – Round 15 – Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 24 def. Penrith Panthers 12 at ANZ Stadium
While the Panthers managed wins in both clashes between these two sides last season, including a comprehensive 38-0 win on enemy territory mid-season, the Bulldogs hold a narrow advantage over the entire history of the contest.
The Panthers have banked wins in their last three games against the Bulldogs, including a 28-12 win in the 2016 Qualifying Final.
|Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs||Penrith Panthers|
|1||Moses Mbye||Dylan Edwards|
|2||Brett Morris||Josh Mansour|
|3||Josh Morris||Waqa Blake|
|4||Will Hopoate||Dean Whare|
|5||Marcelo Montoya||Dallin Watene-Zelezniak|
|6||Jeremy Marshall-King||James Maloney|
|7||Kieran Foran||Nathan Cleary|
|8||Aaron Woods||James Tamou|
|9||Michael Lichaa||Peter Wallace|
|10||David Klemmer||Reagan Campbell-Gillard|
|11||Josh Jackson||Viliame Kikau|
|12||Raymond Faitala-Mariner||Isaah Yeo|
|13||Aiden Tolman||Trent Merrin|
|14||Adam Elliott||Tyrone Peachey|
|15||Asipeli Fine||Corey Harawira-Naera|
|16||Danny Fualalo||Moses Leota|
|17||Fa’amanu Brown||James Fisher-Harris|
|19/18||Francis Tualau||Sione Katoa|
|20/19||Kerrod Holland||Nick Lui-Toso|
|21/20||Renouf To’omaga||Jarome Luai|
|23/21||John Olive||Christian Crichton|
The facts that matter
While the caliber of opposition definitely must come into consideration, the Bulldogs find themselves winless after two weeks of competitive action and that will not impress new head coach Dean Pay or the Dogs faithful one iota.
Canterbury put together decent spells against both Melbourne and the Roosters but were ultimately out-classed by much more talented rosters over the course of a full 80 minutes.
New recruit Aaron Woods has come under particular scrutiny since his much-vaunted move from the Wests Tigers and while there have already been more than a few vocal critics of the big man, he does lead the Bulldogs forward pack in average metres gained over the first fortnight of football.
Woods sits behind only Moses Mbye with 144 average metres while his front row partner David Klemmer has 143 metres per game so far in 2018.
Going toe-to-toe with a big, young Penrith pack boasting the likes of James Tamou, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Moses Leota will hold huge sway over how Foran and the Bulldogs strike weapons are able to involve themselves in the contest.
The Panthers have been carried forward on the strength of their outside backs with fullback Dylan Edwards and wingers Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Josh Mansour amongst the biggest yardage makers for the Mountain Men so far in 2018.
Edwards, in particular, has gone from strength to strength after an impressive full rookie season in 2017 with the former Dorrigo Magpies star becoming an integral part of the Panthers attacking plans in 2018. Safe under the high ball and at the back in defence, it has been his ability to chime into sweeping backline movements that has seen him position himself as one of the most rapidly improving custodians in the game.
On the flipside, captain Peter Wallace has proved himself once again as an insatiable tackler, with the hooker averaging 46 tackles per game over the first two weeks of the league campaign.
The Panthers notched a handy 38-0 drubbing of the Bulldogs in the corresponding fixture last year at ANZ Stadium and managed a second win against Canterbury later in the year on home soil and rightly enter round three as favourites.
Penrith are on the hunt for only their second ever 3-0 start to a season as well, adding some extra spice to the contest. The Panthers last managed this feat back in 1997 as part of the breakaway Super League competition.
In injury terms, the Panthers are without returning front-rower Sam McKendry who has suffered his third torn ACL, Tyrone May (ACL), Tyrone Phillips (Pectoral) and Tim Browne (Bowel).
The injury to McKendry is particularly galling given his savage run of outs with the same problem and could spell an early end to a once-promising career.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was named earlier in the week but will miss this clash with a broken jaw.
Although the Bulldogs have been decent against good opposition, they haven’t won a game and haven’t really looked like doing enough over 80 minutes to seal the points. For the Panthers, things have yet to hit their peak either, but it’s tough to go past them this week. Penrith 1-12.
Who will claim the points in this Friday night blockbuster? Let us know in the comments and poll below.