It was a mixed lot of results for the two teams in this clash in the opening round of the NRL season. While the Penrith Panthers started off poorly but recovered to get the win over the Parramatta Eels in the 'Battle of the West', the South Sydney Rabbitohs could not topple the New Zealand Warriors in Perth despite being heavy favourites and the Warriors having a poor record in Perth.
Even with the poor result last weekend, Souths have had their task made even harder with chief playmaker and halfback, Adam Reynolds, ruled out for the next 2-4 weeks with a knee injury.
Both coaches this week will look for a win but for different reasons. Panthers coach Anthony Griffin kept the wolves at bay for at least a week with the win against the Eels but with the media still adamant that this is not his team, any slip up will put him under the microscope. Souths coach Anthony Seibold is just starting his first grade coaching career and will hope he can turn around the round one loss and take his first win back to Redfern on Saturday afternoon.
Round 17, 2017: South Sydney Rabbitohs def. Penrith Panthers 42-14.
Round 6, 2017: South Sydney Rabbitohs def. Penrith Panthers 21-20.
Round 16, 2016: Penrith Panthers def. South Sydney Rabbitohs 28-26.
Round 21, 2015: South Sydney Rabbitohs def. Penrith Panthers 20-16.
Round 17, 2015: Penrith Panthers def. South Sydney Rabbitohs 20-6.
As you can see above, the past five fixtures have been relatively close bar the last match between the two sides where Souths ran out comfortable winners.
From a history standpoint between the two teams, Souths have the major advantage. In the 85 games, the Rabbitohs have come away with 45 wins to the Panthers 34 wins with one draw amongst those games.
|Penrith Panthers||South Sydney Rabbitohs|
|1||Dylan Edwards||Alex Johnston|
|2||Josh Mansour||Richard Kennar|
|3||Waqa Blake||Dane Gagai|
|4||Tyrone Peachey||Greg Inglis|
|5||Dallin Watene-Zelezniak||Robert Jennings|
|6||James Maloney||Cody Walker|
|7||Nathan Cleary||Adam Doueihi|
|8||James Tamou||Thomas Burgess|
|9||Peter Wallace||Damien Cook|
|10||Reagan Campbell-Gillard||Sam Burgess|
|11||Viliame Kikau||John Sutton|
|12||Isaah Yeo||Angus Crichton|
|13||Trent Merrin||Cameron Murray|
|14||Corey Harawira-Naera||Tyrell Fuimaono|
|15||Sam McKendry||Mark Nicholls|
|16||Moses Leota||George Burgess|
|17||James Fisher-Harris||Tevita Tatola|
|18||Sione Katoa||Robbie Farah|
|19||Tim Browne||Jason Clark|
|20||Dean Whare||Hymel Hunt|
|21||Christian Crichton||Vincent Leuluai|
The facts that matter
There has been a lot of excitement at the foot of the mountains about the combination between new halves pairing in James Maloney and Nathan Cleary. After Maloney was brought to the club in a swap deal with local product, Matt Moylan, the pressure is on the premiership winner to deliver. Having led every team he has been a part of to a Grand Final, everyone around Penrith will hope that stat can continue over the next few years. It was clear from the game against the Eels that the combination needs work but Cleary stood up when the going got tough which bodes well that the 20-year-old is set for yet another big year.
Providing the Panthers can switch on from the opening whistle and not once the game looks almost gone, then it could be a long day for the visitors.
Waqa Blake took the game away from Parramatta with his damaging running and it will be a great battle this weekend for him and his centre partner, Tyrone Peachey, against the strike in Dane Gagai and Greg Inglis. Despite both teams having a quality forward pack, it could be the class and experience in the backline for the Panthers that might prove the difference.
South Sydney Rabbitohs:
The script was written last weekend in Perth for Anthony Seibold to start the season with a victory and for Greg Inglis to play an NRL game for the first time since round one last season with a dominant performance. Unfortunately, the Warriors had other ideas and made a last-minute change to the script to get one of the biggest upsets of the weekend.
Souths had their chances and possibly should have been awarded a try during the game but that doesn't deter from the fact they were outplayed by the Warriors.
What makes it even more difficult this weekend is they can't rely on their halfback and first-choice goalkicker in Adam Reynolds to keep them in the game. It is a debut this weekend for Lebanese International Adam Doueihi who got good minutes in pre-season. However, this isn't pre-season and the pressure will be on him and Cody Walker to get the results in the next four weeks while Reynolds recovers.
Souths have a terrible record without Reynolds as highlighted by The Fox Sports Lab that since 2012 they have only won just five of their 19 games for a win-percentage of 26.3 per-cent. This is opposed to the stat that with Reynolds in that time they have won 80 from 135 games (59.3 per-cent). They say the stats don't lie but on this occasion, The Burrow and the Souths squad will hope it's not true.
The Panthers can't afford to be so complacent to start games on a regular basis. The Eels should have put the foot down and run away with the game but a credit to Penrith they hung on and fought back to get the win.
Despite the real excitement looking to be in the outside backs, look for a real battle between the forwards with Tamou and Campbell-Gillard going head-to-head with Thomas and Sam Burgess (who has been moved further up the scrum for this game).
The poor performance against the Warriors may have been a one-off and might give them the wake up call they need but heading to Panthers Stadium is always a struggle and with the home side having plenty of confidence going into this one it's too hard to look past the mountain men. Panthers by 8.