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Roosters v Panthers
Allianz Stadium
Sunday, 3pm 

There’s reason for both sides’ fans to feel excited about this game following impressive last-start victories. It’s been two long years for both the Roosters and the Panthers, but positive signs have emerged in recent weeks that indicate bright futures at both clubs.

The new-look Roosters are arguably the league’s new team-on-the-rise following five wins from their opening seven matches. They’ve already cast aside the Warriors, Broncos, Eels, Bulldogs and Dragons in an impressive and determined start to the season. They’re flying high in third place on the competition ladder.

The Panthers, meanwhile, have won just two matches all season, against the Raiders in Round 1 and against the Eels last Monday night. There’s cause for some tempered excitement from fans though, following some determined efforts (even if they proved fruitless) and the recent rise to prominence of some thrilling young talent including fullback Matt Moylan, five-eighth Tom Humble and back-rower Adam Docker. Could these young stars become the foundation stones of Penrith’s new generation of success?

Not surprisingly, the Roosters have stuck solid with the team that dominated the Dragons on Anzac Day, with coach Trent Robinson naming the same 17. The Panthers have also named the same squad that defeated the Eels in Round 7, with back-rower Nathan Smith added to a five-man bench that’s subject to change.

Watch Out Roosters: Confidence – it’s what’s been absent from the Panthers’ NRL campaign in 2013 and it’s something that would’ve returned to the club by the truckload in their demolition of the Eels last Monday. 

Sure, the 32-point victory was only against the lowly Eels, but there are very positive signs for coach Ivan Cleary. An eight-try performance will do that.  Whether it’s accurate or not, an element of the Panthers – and their fans – will be feeling hungry for retribution in this clash, too. Former centre Michael Jennings is now on the Roosters’ books… and it doesn’t sit well with most people out Penrith way. Combined, could they bring the required confidence and motivation to challenge the Roosters?

Watch Out Panthers: The Ferrari of the NRL – the blue-ribbon boys from Sydney’s eastern suburbs – is just getting warmed up. The purring out wide from the Jennings and Williams engines is just the start. Perhaps most telling is their watertight defence – the Roosters concede an average of just 10.9 points per game… and just 7.6 at home. Combine that with the Panthers’ poor away-from-home scoring record – they average just eight points – and it could prove a very trying afternoon for the boys from the foot of the mountains.

Plays To Watch: Expect the evenly matched forward packs to mostly nullify each other, with the majority of this game’s highlights-reel clips to come from the backline stars. 
Both teams’ halves will look to send long, deep and early ball to their boys in the backline after impressive displays last week that led their teams to victory. 

For the Roosters, that’s former Panther Jennings, fellow centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall and wingers Daniel Tupou and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck; at the Panthers we’re talking the powerful Lewis Brown, the elusive Dean Whare and the under-rated Travis Robinson and David Simmons on the flanks.

Kiwi back-rower Sika Manu could well look to nullify his countryman Sonny Bill Williams, too – keep an eye on the powerful forwards coming face to face even though most of the time they’ll be lurking on their respective right-hand sides of the field.

Key Match-Up: No.7s Mitchell Pearce and Luke Walsh will have a huge influence in this clash. The Roosters halfback has been impressive so far this season, with eight try assists, four line-break assists and one line-break in the first seven games of the year. Perhaps his best work, though, is that unnoticed by the statisticians – the “one-per-centers” his team-mates and coaches notice, though. 

Penrith general Walsh has had a disappointing start to the year, dropped to Windsor for Round 5, but showed everyone what he is capable of against the Eels in their NRL match last week. The former Knights halfback laid on three tries and showed off an expert kicking game that led his side to victory. 

Where It Will Be Won: It’s all about attention to detail here. Penrith have only won matches this season when they’ve enjoyed completion rates of 78 per cent or greater. The Roosters will know this – and they’ll be applying a mass of pressure on the Panthers’ attack. If Penrith fail to complete their sets, they’ll be handing ball to the second most dangerous attacking side in the competition… and they’ll be kissing their chance of winning goodbye.

The History: Played 79; Sydney Roosters 48, Penrith 30, drawn 1. At Allianz Stadium the ledger’s also in favour of the Bondi boys, with the Roosters victorious in nine of 16 matches in total.

Match Officials: Referees – Jared Maxwell & Luke Phillips; Sideline Officials – Steve Carrall & Michael Wise; Video Referees – Ashley Klein & Reece Williams.

NRL Live 2013 App: Gives you access to every NRL game this season on your iPhone or Android smartphone as it’s being broadcast on TV, with up to six live games each week, including the Roosters v Panthers clash. Plus latest live scores, breaking news, comprehensive match highlights and full match replays.

Download NRL Live 2013 now for iPhone or Andriod

Televised: Channel 9 – Delayed 4pm; Fox Sports – Delayed 6pm. 

The Way We See It: There’s reason for optimism at the foot of the mountains, but there’s little for Panthers fans to get too excited about here. The Roosters are one of the competition’s form sides – a true title contender in 2013 – and Penrith just don’t have the side to challenge in this one. Roosters by plenty – we’ll say 20 points.

*Statistics: NRL Stats
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