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Panthers v Sea Eagles
Centrebet Stadium
Sunday 3pm

The ‘Glory Bound Rounds’ are upon us and while Manly appears on track to make a significant run through the finals the Panthers are in an absolute dogfight to just be around in September.

Consequently this shapes as a massive game for the home side; they know they were very lucky to steal the two points away from Parramatta in golden point last week.

The one-point win ensured the side moved into the top eight, sitting right on the edge in eighth.

(It was the 39th time in the past 40 games the side has won when kicking a field-goal during the game – a stat that dates back to 1989!)

The mountain men are now equal with the Wests Tigers (7th) and Newcastle (9th) on 20 competition points but slide into the finals zone with a better differential than the Knights.

A win against the Sea Eagles would be a huge boost for their chances as not many sides have beaten Des Hasler’s men this year – but a loss gives not only the Knights a chance to overtake them but gives hope to the sides just a win behind.

Cronulla, South Sydney and the Bulldogs are all sweating on an opening.

With both teams coming off wins we are in for an absolute cracker. Penrith have improved their home record to 6-3 after a dismal start to the year but the Sea Eagles’ away record of 5-4 is the fourth strongest in the league.

The home side welcomes Trent Waterhouse back in the second row with Nathan Smith reverting to the bench.

Manly showed they are a genuine force once more with a 32-10 dismantling of Newcastle in Newcastle, keeping them in second place. The Knights were quite simply lucky to score the 10 points.

Will Hopoate returns on the wing, bolstering the side, with strong-running David Williams unlucky to miss out.

Captain Jason King also returns at prop with George Rose returning to the bench and Joe Galuvao due to start in the second row with Vic Mauro moving to the reserves.

Tim Robinson has been added to an extended bench.  

Watch Out Panthers: Manly are coming left – hard and often! The Sea Eagles are really killing teams down the left side of the field this season. They have scored 40 tries down the left side compared to 25 on the right. What is also potentially more important is the fact the Panthers have conceded 25 tries on the left side. Seventeen of those tries have come on the left fringe, the place where the likes of Anthony Watmough will be set to wreak havoc.

Danger Sign: While the Sea Eagles have shown a distinct preference to go left this year they showed in the opening minute against the Knights they can also go right with a vengeance. Jamie Lyon and Glenn Stewart are lurking on the right side and they are in some sparkling form. The Panthers are in for a torrid time.

Watch Out Sea Eagles: Panthers’ fullback Lachlan Coote has taken a back seat with injury issues over the past few seasons and with Michael Gordon at the same club, he has been (and perhaps still is) in a scrap for his position long-term. But in recent weeks he has started to shine; he’ll be a real threat to the Sea Eagles.

Coote has crossed for 10 tries this year and is one of the game’s best support players. He averages 132 metres a game, has made six line-breaks, two line-break assists, three try assists and 41 tackle-breaks.

Danger Sign: Someone in the Sea Eagles needs to be watching Coote when the Panthers have the ball. His best play is to support up the middle of the ruck – he leads his club with 53 supports despite playing just 12 games. Also, he is often the chaser of kicks so the Manly back three might get a clue about the direction of a forthcoming kick by keeping an eye on his whereabouts. Funnily enough, Brett Stewart plays a similar support game so we are in for a cracking battle between the No.1s.

Plays To Watch: Glenn Stewart unleashing his playmaking skills on the right edge; Petero Civoniceva carrying his side on his back; banana kicks for the fullbacks; Luke Lewis taking on the Manly defensive line; Steve Matai niggling whenever he gets the chance.  

Where It Will Be Won: Discipline is going to be a huge factor. The Panthers will really need to lift their playing efforts to be a threat against the Sea Eagles but one part of the game they cannot afford to continue to struggle in is their discipline. They are the most-penalised team in the competition by a long way, with 127 conceded. Lucky for them they come against a team who is the sixth most-penalised team, with 100 shrills of the referees’ whistles going against them. Losing the penalty count can often be a sure-fire way to lose a game, as repeat sets allow teams ample chances to score and the extra possession rate takes its toll on the defence. The Panthers’ biggest issue seems to be getting overpowered at the ruck, as they have given away 36 holding-down penalties – the most in the NRL and eight more than their nearest rival.

They have also given away the most penalties for ‘markers not square’ – a sign that when they do allow the tackler to get up they aren’t getting in place quickly enough. As a result, look for the Sea Eagles to use plenty of dummy-half runners to try to either milk penalties or make breaks through the middle.

The History: Played 74; Panthers 26, Sea Eagles 47, drawn 1. The Sea Eagles knocked off the Panthers 22-16 earlier this season to make it four of the past six against this particular rival. They have no issue travelling to Centrebet Stadium, where they actually lead the head-to-head count 20-16-1. The ground has seen some massacres in the past – the Sea Eagles’ greatest win over Penrith was 70-7 there in 1973, while the Panthers’ best result over Manly was 72-12 in 2004. Not since 2004 have Penrith won six home matches on the trot, and they have lost seven of their past eight day games.

Conclusion: It’s hard to bet against the Sea Eagles after watching them last week. They look destined to be in this premiership fight up to their eyeballs. But… the Panthers are at home and chasing a sixth straight home win. They’ll be desperate and can’t be discounted; though it’s likely they’ll fall just short.

Match Officials: Referees – Shayne Hayne & Ben Cummins; Touch Judges – Daniel Eastwood & Ricky MacFarlane; Video Ref – Bernard Sutton.

Televised: Channel Nine – Delayed 4pm; Fox Sports – Delayed 6pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats.