Sea Eagles v Panthers
WELL, at least one team here looks set to get their first win of the year!
For different reasons, both sides have failed to kick-start 2009 the way they would have wanted and there is a real chance they could be left alone at the bottom of the ladder should they go down in this match.
For Manly, attitude has been a real issue. Even before they found themselves in the middle of boardroom factional flare-ups and off-field dramas the Sea Eagles should have been aware that as premiers, they would face teams desperate to knock them off.
They will not be able to coast against any opposition this season, even when seemingly in a winning position like last Sunday against the Warriors.
Rather than put the Kiwi-based side away, the Sea Eagles took the foot off the pedal just a fraction, allowing the ultimate professional in Stacey Jones to orchestrate a come-from-behind win.
Winger Andrew Suniula is out with a hand injury; he’s replaced by Shane Neumann (four first grade games). Shane Rodney, who left the field bleeding from an eye last week, is also gone; he’s been replaced by either George Rose or Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
For the Panthers, execution in attack has been their major issue. The Panthers are coming up with great field position – they’re just not asking many questions of the opposition’s defences.
Gavin Cooper has been suspended, meaning Brad Tighe moves from wing to centre with Shane Elford coming onto the flank.
Tim Grant has been relegated from starting prop to the bench, with Frank Puletua now starting.
Joseph Paulo and Wade Graham have been added as extra reserves.
Watch out Sea Eagles: Panthers back-rower Trent Waterhouse was outstanding against the Bulldogs, bringing back memories of his time as a representative star. Waterhouse scored two tries, had two line breaks and added 30 tackles in a powerhouse performance.
The Manly side will be hoping Waterhouse fails to back up his impressive showing but they certainly can’t bank on that and will need to get physical in defence to cut down his attacking space and time.
They also need to improve their missed tackle rate – with 74 misses they are the worst team in the league at the moment.
Watch out Panthers: The Sea Eagles were also 0-2 last season coming into a Monday night clash at Brookvale Oval but they responded by thrashing the Warriors 52-6.
With Manly coach Des Hasler firing several rockets this week the home side is likely to be looking to restore some pride, which spells huge danger for the Panthers.
The likes of Matt Orford and Jamie Lyon could be in for a huge night if the Panthers don’t stiffen up their defence.
Where it will be won: Concentration, execution and attitude. Despite their awful start to the year Manly should be good enough to put the Panthers away. But to do so they’ll need to have an attitude transplant, smarten up their execution and ensure they are concentrating for the entire 80 minutes.
They need to go back to basics and ensure they are switched on. It’s time to put all their troubles behind them and concentrate on what they are paid to do… play football.
If Penrith are to pull off the upset win they will also need to be on their game for the entire contest. Matthew Elliott is no dunce. He has surely trained his halves to make the most of attacking opportunities and it’s important that they take the chances they get.
You can tell by the coach’s reactions in the box that he has not been advocating kicking early when attacking the opposition line. The Panthers mustn’t panic in attack and instead build pressure – and then get the job done.
The History: Played 70; Sea Eagles 45, Panthers 24, drawn 1. Manly have won four of the past five and have a distinct advantage over Penrith at Brookvale Oval, winning 26 of 34 matches. The last time Penrith won on the Sea Eagles’ turf was in 2003.
Conclusion: They have been far from impressive this season but you get the feeling Manly will shake their funk before the Panthers fully hit their straps.
It’s been a long, long time since the Panthers won at Brookie and it is hard to have any confidence that they can break the trend.
They were certainly a little unlucky not to get the result against the Bulldogs but the fact that they couldn’t close the deal when the game was theirs to win is just another reason to lean towards the Sea Eagles.
Match officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Phil Haines; Sideline Officials – Alan Shortall & Jeff Younis; Video Ref – Chris Ward.
Televised: Fox Sports –Live 7pm AEDT.
* Statistics: NRL Stats.