Friday evening’s matches for round 15 concludes with an absolute ripper of a contest between the Roosters and the Panthers. It is undoubtedly the match of the round, as the Roosters are eager to break into the top four, where they undoubtedly feel they deserve to be, whereas the high flying Panthers will be keen to return to the summit, having been displaced by the Dragons, courtesy of a solitary point in their respective points differentials.
The Roosters come into this match having won their last three matches against the Titans, Tigers and Knights, after a heartbreaking loss to the Broncos almost a month ago. After their impressive victory over the Titans, some commentators suggested that it may be a turning point in the Chooks’ season. It’s difficult to argue with that, considering the tricolours have since been able to see out the Tigers, minus their Origin contingent, while staving off a brave Knights outfit.
Similar to their opponents, the Panthers are in the midst of an impressive winning streak, with fellow table toppers, the Dragons being one of their victims in this run. Since their surprise loss to a Johnathan Thurston inspired Cowboys outfit, the Panthers have gone from strength to strength, dispatching of the Knights and Tigers, while destroying the top of the table Dragons, before pipping the Raiders in the national capital. It’s rather scary for any of their opponents, considering that the Panthers are equal first, yet have not played to their strengths as yet.
With both teams in the midst of their respective winning streaks, it is safe to say that they will both be eager to continue their streaks for differing reasons. This means that both teams are certain to tear shreds off each other. However, unless the match ends in a draw after 10 minutes of golden point, there is a high likelihood that the winning streak for one team will come to an end at the conclusion of the match.
Also, with Panthers captain and stalwart, Peter Wallace, immediately calling time on his playing career earlier this week, the men from the foot of the Blue Mountains have another factor to motivate them. In addition, a mouthwatering matchup between the halves is on the cards here, as the Roosters halves pairing of Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary prepare to battle it out with Panthers halves, James Maloney and Nathan Cleary.
2017 - Round 3 - Sydney Roosters 14 def. Penrith Panthers 12 at Panthers Stadium.
2016 - Round 22 - Penrith Panthers 38 def. Sydney Roosters 18 at Panthers Stadium.
2016 - Round 7 - Penrith Panthers 20 def. Sydney Roosters 16 at Allianz Stadium.
2015 - Round 18 - Sydney Roosters 24 def. Penrith Panthers 4 at Panthers Stadium.
2015 - Round 3 - Sydney Roosters 20 def. Penrith Panthers 12 at Allianz Stadium.
The Roosters have actually been the more dominant team in their recent encounters with the Panthers, winning three of the last five matches. In fact, ever since Trent Robinson took the coaching job at Bondi in 2013, the Chooks have won six out of nine matches. As for their overall head-to-head record, the tricolours have won 58 of their meetings, while the Mountain men have won 35 matches, followed by a lone draw back in 1967, when the Roosters were known as Eastern Suburbs.
However, if there’s one thing that Panthers fans may crow about regarding their encounters with the Roosters, it’s the fact that they have won both finals encounters with the Roosters in 2003 (grand final) and 2014 (qualifying final). The 2003 grand final victory is especially sweet for Panthers fans, given they defeated the then reigning premiers, the Roosters, in a match featuring former Panther, Brad Fittler, as captain of the Chooks, as well as an amazing try-saving tackle by then Panthers lock, Scott Sattler, on then Roosters flyer, Todd Byrne.
With both teams hitting a purple patch, this encounter is an opportunity for both sides to reignite the previous rivalry between the two teams.
|Sydney Roosters||Penrith Panthers|
|1||James Tedesco||Dallin Watene-Zelezniak|
|2||Daniel Tupou||Christian Crichton|
|3||Latrell Mitchell||Tyrone Peachey|
|4||Joseph Manu||Dean Whare|
|5||Blake Ferguson||Tyrone Phillips|
|6||Luke Keary||James Maloney|
|7||Cooper Cronk||Nathan Cleary|
|8||Jared Waerea-Hargreaves||Trent Merrin|
|9||Jake Friend||Sione Katoa|
|10||Dylan Napa||Reagan Campbell-Gillard|
|11||Boyd Cordner||Corey Harawira-Naera|
|12||Mitchell Aubusson||Isaah Yeo|
|13||Isaac Liu||James Fisher-Harris|
|14||Sio Siua Taukeiaho||Wayde Egan|
|15||Zane Tetevano||Kaide Ellis|
|16||Kurt Baptiste||Jack Hetherington|
|17||Victor Radley||James Tamou|
|18/20||Nat Butcher||Tyrone May|
|20/21||Paul Momirovski||Nick Lui-Toso|
The facts that matter
Despite not being anywhere near their best last week, the Roosters did what all good sides would do, in which they accounted for a very stubborn Knights outfit in Newcastle. And having escaped the Hunter Valley with the competition points, the Chooks were able to claim their ninth win for the season, as well as their third consecutive victory. Given their rather inconsistent season thus far, one can believe that things are only looking up for the men from Bondi. Thus, they will be primed for a big one, as they prepare to take on the high flying Panthers at home.
Defence will be the key for the Chooks, as they are ranked fourth in points conceded, with 212 points scored against them. In addition, the tricolours are ranked first in charge downs, having charged down six times this season. Despite this, there are some issues which will need addressing, such as their errors and ineffective tackles. The Roosters lead the error, ineffective tackle and handling error counts, with 178, 279 and 70 respectively. The error count has been an issue for the men from Bondi since last season, and cannot be continued if they are to challenge for the premiership. On the flip side, despite not being ranked very high in attack, the Chooks have made 21,037 metres this season, which exceeds all other teams except the Rabbitohs.
The home form of the Roosters is fairly impressive, as they have won five out of seven matches at home this season. One of those matches was against the Titans in Gosford. Should the Chooks secure victory in this match, and both the Warriors and Storm falter in their respective matches to the Cowboys and Knights, the men from Bondi will likely find themselves in the top four by the end of this round, unless the Sharks defeat the Broncos by over 40 points.
Similar to their opponents, the Panthers overcame a stubborn opponent in the Raiders to emerge victorious, despite not being at their best. Regardless, they were able to do what any good team would do, and account for a difficult opponent. Moreover, they were able to escape with the competition points from a venue which is generally difficult to win at, particularly during the winter months. Despite not really playing near their best in most of their matches, the Panthers find themselves in a share of top spot on the ladder. A rather daunting prospect for any of their opponents, especially when one thinks what they can do if they reach their peak.
Looking at the statistics, it is little wonder that the men from the Blue Mountains are flying at the moment. The Panthers find themselves in the top five of numerous crucial stats, including: Points scored (300 - 3rd), completed sets (79% - 5th), post-contact metres (6666 - 5th), kick return metres (2566 - 1st) and try assists (36 - 5th). Moreover, the Mountain men have conceded fewer points than any other team this season, with 190 scored against them. Moreover, if the match is decided by goal kicking, the Panthers will have the ascendancy, as their conversion rate stands at 87%, which is better than any other team. However, if there are any areas which need addressing, they are the missed tackle count and penalties conceded. The Panthers have missed 461 tackles, which is more than all other teams, except the Tigers. In addition, the Panthers have conceded more penalties than any other team this season, with 133.
The Panthers boast one of the more superior away records in the NRL this season, having won four times, while dropping their matches only twice. Both those losses to the Bulldogs and Sharks were very close as well. Thus the Mountain men will have few qualms with taking on a quality team away from home. Not only will they want to fir up for the recently retired Peter Wallace, they will be eager to reclaim top spot with a victory here, while hoping the Dragons lose their match to the Sea Eagles, given there is very little between them and the Dragons, regarding points differential.
This match is easily the match of the round, as both teams come into this match on the back of winning streaks. Therefore, both will be eager to consolidate on their own winning streaks, while putting an end to that of their opponents’ streak.
The Roosters haven’t had the best of seasons thus far, however they appear to be making a more sustained run into the top four, having strung three consecutive victories for the first time this season. They have a good recent and overall record against the Panthers, and will therefore fancy their chances. Moreover, a victory here will go a long way to proving their premiership credentials. Even more motivation for them is the fact that they could find themselves in the top four if they win this match and other results go their way.
The Panthers have been nothing short of amazing this season, and yet we still haven’t seen them play their best on a regular basis. However, they are doing the little things right, which is why they are placed as high up the ladder as they are. They have a very solid away record and have run down multiple teams, despite being over two converted tries down, which is why no team is safe when playing against them. Two motivating factors for them is that they will want to give departing stalwart, Peter Wallace, an appropriate parting gift, while being very eager to claim an outright lead on the ladder.
With all that has been said, this match is a toss of the coin. Whilst the Roosters have been solid at home and are beginning to hit their straps, I just feel that the Panthers will be just that bit eager to provide a fitting farewell for their departing skipper, while reclaiming the lead on the ladder. As such, I will tip the Panthers to escape to the foot of the Blue Mountains with the competition points by the skin of their teeth. Panthers by 4.
Can the Panthers keep their winning run going or will the Roosters snare an upset at home? Let us know in the comments below.