Panthers v Warriors
The Panthers are coming off the biggest upset win of the season. Not many people outside of themselves and their relatives and close friends would have given them a realistic chance of beating the Storm last weekend, but they did it. After establishing a 12-0 lead they had to dig deep in the face of an inevitable Storm fightback, but they did that successfully to win 12-10. It was only their third win of the season, but their second in their past three games.
The Warriors continue to perform well for large chunks of matches only to let the results slip because they aren’t playing for the full 80 minutes. It happened again when they played the Bulldogs last weekend. The Warriors led 16-0, but were run down and beaten 24-16. They look good enough to beat any team on their day, but are sitting in second-last place on the competition table with just two wins from nine matches. The frustration in the camp must be enormous.
There are no changes to the Panthers’ team for this game. Sam Rapira returns at prop for the Warriors, with Ben Matulino dropping back to what is a five-man bench to make way for him.
Watch Out Panthers: If the Warriors ever put 80 minutes together they could do a real job on an opposition team. It is impossible to predict whether this is going to be the week when the Warriors put it all together, but if they do then the Panthers are in for one heck of a contest.
Watch Out Warriors: The win over the Storm could be a watershed one for the Panthers. Sure, the Storm look to be a bit down at the moment, but any win over them is hard-earned and the Panthers did a great job to secure it. That success could do wonders for the self-belief of a young side.
Plays To Watch: The Panthers are getting great value out of their right-side attack this season. Winger David Simmons has had two try-scoring doubles in his past three games, and seven tries for the season. The Panthers will keep playing to his wing.
Warriors forward Simon Mannering has the ability to cut the defence up when he runs on the right, but he’s not making a big enough impact with that part of his game. Maybe he will take it up a notch here.
Key Match-Up: Rival halfbacks Luke Walsh and Shaun Johnson are not the same sort of player. Walsh has a great kicking game and relies heavily on that, while Johnson likes to try to shock the opposition by running the ball when that doesn’t seem the likely option. Their performances will be critical to the result here.
Where It Will Be Won: The Panthers fancy themselves against tough forward packs. They love to get into the heavyweight battle up front. Panthers prop Tim Grant looks particularly mean at the moment, and he will be itching to take on Warriors front-rowers Russell Packer and Sam Rapira. But don’t forget the other starting prop for the Panthers, Nigel Plum, who monstered the Storm last weekend.
The History: Played 30; Panthers 15, Warriors 14, drawn 1. The record at Centrebet Stadium is seven games apiece with one draw. However, the Warriors have won four of the past five clashes overall.
Match Officials: Referees – Gerard Sutton & Henry Perenara; Sideline Officials – Jeff Younis & Adam Gee.; Video referees – Paul Mellor & Neil Wharton.
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 Panthers v Warriors clash. Plus latest live scores, breaking news, comprehensive match highlights and full match replays.
Televised: Fox Sports – live, 7.30pm.
The Way We See It: The Panthers are working hard at the moment. Even when they lost 30-6 to the Roosters two rounds back, they never stopped trying. The Warriors are a team they can beat, just by keeping up the intensity and continuing to put in for each other. You just can’t trust the Warriors to play for 80 minutes until they start doing it regularly. Panthers by eight points.
• Statistics: NRL Stats.