Ennis pays Penrith ultimate respect
Bulldogs skipper Michael Ennis has given Penrith the ultimate compliment by comparing their playing style similar to that of September specialists Melbourne and Manly.
After entering the finals race with just two wins from their final eight regular season games, many expected the Belmorians to limp out of the business end with a whimper.
And while back-to-back victories over perennial heavyweights in the Storm and Sea Eagles have catapulted the Bulldogs back into premiership reckoning, Ennis says Penrith are just as worthy an adversary.
"[They're] probably similar in a lot of ways in the style of footy that they play," he said on Wednesday.
"They get out of their end pretty simply. They just get down field pretty well with guys that really buy into their structure. And then obviously [Jamie] Soward picks his moments. He's probably the form player of the comp. Kicks teams into corners and then they respond with their kick chase.
"They're doing all the things that finals footy is about and they're doing it well. Obviously a fortnight ago everyone was saying the Roosters were home and hosed and they come out and beat them. So it's going to be one hell of a challenge for us."
The western Sydney counterparts have met twice this year, with Penrith victorious on both occasions.
The first was when Panthers fullback Matt Moylan nailed a sideline conversion after the siren to escape with an 18-16 win at the foot of the mountains in Round 3, before thwarting a late Bulldogs comeback to win 22-16 at ANZ Stadium in Round 21.
Coach Des Hasler said that while Penrith were a "good side", the past two results will have very little impact on Saturday night's clash.
"They're a good side. I say that with no tongue in cheek," he said. "They are a good side. They've earned their right, they've played well. They've worked hard all off-season and during the season. It's no surprise to me that they are where they are. They're very well-versed, very well-coached. It'll be a tough game.
"I think the sides [this time] are vastly different. I think the personnel is vastly different. We [played] them at the start of the year I think, first game, and they got us after the whistle when young Moylan kicked the goal. So we're going to have to watch him, aren't we?
"And obviously the other the time we got them during Origin. You can take from that what you can.
"It's the side that's going to handle the conditions, the decisions, and the flow of the game. They're just playing very simply, very consistent. They've completed well. They've managed to stay in games for long periods, so that'll be where the contest I think will be won and lost."
Forward Dale Finucane said the Bulldogs identified Penrith's back three as their major threat.
"One of their biggest strengths for them is their back five. They're really good at coming out of yardage for them and getting quick play the balls," he said.
"I think they play well off the back of that. I think if we can nullify their go forward from the back five, that'll go a long way to winning the game.
"I guess they've flown under the radar this year Penrith and no one's really given them the chance. Those two sides you mentioned are specialist teams. Penrith haven't been there for a while, so it'll be interesting to see how they turn up on the weekend."