The Penrith Panthers are coming off a miraculous last start win against the Sea Eagles scoring four tries in six minutes. They were not at their best, however, they came away with a vital two competition points and remain a good chance of finishing in the top four. Throughout their six-minute scoring spree their football was at its attacking best and throughout this season they have entertained despite a lengthy injury list.
Not only has the side experienced a growing injury list that is only ceasing, their has been concerns for the on-field performances of players and therefore their futures. Both James Tamou and Trent Merrin on the outer one week, and reportedly wanting to leave the next, along with all the talk of Anthony Griffin being gone by seasons end the Panthers have let their football do the talking. Additionally, despite coming through the Origin period rather scathed they can now remind the competition why they were the dark horses and leading the competition at its halfway point.
The Raiders season is all over for 2018 even a late run now seems too much with four of their last five clashes against top eight sides. A season that has been marred by late capitulations the Raiders have lifted since the return of Josh Hodgson their inspirational hooker, however it has been too little, too late. There is no doubt when they have their starting 17 on the park fit and fresh they can beat anyone, however last week they were humbled by a rampant Storm side, showing the gulf in class between the sides.
Where the Panthers have never used injury as an excuse the Raiders uncoming despite receiving some poor calls has been laying the blame on the referees. Ricky Stuart has defended the referees throughout the season, whilst laying the blame on the way the refs are being coached, however the moment a player hears the hint of their coach saying their side was powerless to gain the two points it doesn't bode well. The team may lose respect for the coach or they may buy in to what he's saying, either way the Raiders need to step up on the field to deliver on their obvious potential.
2018 - Round 14 - Penrith Panthers 23 def. Canberra Raiders 22 at GIO Stadium
2017 - Round 24 - Penrith Panthers 26 def. Canberra Raiders 22 at GIO Stadium
2017 - Round 14 - Penrith Panthers 24 def. Canberra Raiders 20 at Carrington Park
2016 - Finals Week 2 - Canberra Raiders 22 def. Penrith Panthers 12 at GIO Stadium
2016 - Round 9 - Penrith Panthers 19 def. Canberra Raiders 18 at Carrington Park
The Penrith Panthers well and truly have the advantage of wins over the Raiders in recent times, with four wins from their last five clashes. Moreover, all of those wins have come away from home with the Panthers only playing the Raiders at home for the first time since 2015. Furthermore, the Panthers have a good habit of either closing out close games or stealing matches from the Raiders at the death as they did in spectacular fashion last year at Carrington Park in Bathurst.
|1||Tyrone Peachey||Nick Cotric|
|2||Josh Mansour||Brad Abbey|
|3||Waqa Blake||Blake Austin|
|4||Dean Whare||Joseph Leilua|
|5||Dallin Watene-Zelezniak||Jordan Rapana|
|6||James Maloney||Aidan Sezer|
|7||Nathan Cleary||Sam Williams|
|8||Moses Leota||Iosia Soliola|
|9||Sione Katoa||Josh Hodgson|
|10||James Tamou||Junior Paulo|
|11||Viliame Kikau||Joseph Tapine|
|12||Isaah Yeo (c)||Elliott Whitehead|
|13||James Fisher-Harris||Josh Papalii|
|14||Tyrone May||Dunamis Lui|
|15||Trent Merrin||Shannon Boyd|
|16||Jack Hetherington||Siliva Havili|
|17||Corey Harawira-Naera||Luke Bateman|
|18||Reagan Campbell-Gillard||Liam Knight|
|19||Kaide Ellis||Jack Murchie|
|20||Christian Crichton||Makahesi Makatoa|
|21||Wayde Egan||Emre Guler|
The facts that matter
The return of James Maloney last week was huge his experience and talent never fails to impose on the game at hand. Their attack has been their focal point with a dominant halves pairing able to unlock opposition defences at any moment. So a fit-again Maloney who admitted midweek he was not fully fit to face the Sea Eagles will be raring to go this week with just five regular round matches left for the season until the finals.
As previously stated their attack has been their main strength so their attitude and desire on defence needs to improve. They had 50 put past them against the Broncos only recently and trailed 24-6 to the much less fancied Sea Eagles last weekend, everyone knows the great go forward they have, however, their season may end prematurely if not for more staunch defence starting this weekend.
If this is another close one count on the Panthers to come away with the points they have the most field goals of the season with four, and two of the best, if not the best goalkickers in the game. They have the fifth most running meters and the most kick return meters and so with their attacking-minded gameplan they can put on attacking plays well inside the opposition half.
Pride is on the line for the Green Machine and most probably a position in the side for some next year with the Raiders once again under-performing and not delivering on promise for the season. Individuals have provided moments of brilliance however as a collective the Raiders have struggled on the field, this needs to turn around this week or they will be punished again.
The Raiders rank high in most attacking statistics with the fourth most points scored (458), tries scored (83), linebreaks (93), tackle breaks (655) and line break assist with 53. This attacking mojo has failed to yield the desired results for much of the season however much like the Panthers they need to sort out their defence, as their attack won't suffer with a little extra attention on defending their line.
Their finishes need to improve as simple as that. They are coming up against a side that can win from almost any position and the Raiders seem to be able to lose a game from a healthy lead. It has crulled their season thus far however they have the chance to set up next season well with some confidence and resilience in closing out a close match if things go that way.
The Penrith Panthers have more on the line for this clash and with greater motivation they should outperform their opposition in the Raiders tomorrow. Two like-minded attacking sides should translate to a highly entertaining Although the Panthers have not played to their strengths since Origin began they have the talent to find form and in front of their home crowd I'm tipping the Panthers to win by 10 points or more.