Manly Sea Eagles v Penrith Panthers
Manly will get an early shot at redemption against a Panthers side that capitalised on their injury woes to earn a 22-12 victory when these teams last met just four weeks ago.
With the Sea Eagles missing key strike weapons Brett Stewart and Jamie Lyon in that match, the Panthers were simply too strong. But this Monday the men from the foot of the mountains will face a much sterner test.
The Sea Eagles have won two on the trot and last week looked nothing like a 16th-placed team as they dismantled the Knights by 20 points, with mercurial halfback Daly Cherry-Evans once again the star.
Meanwhile he Panthers fell to the Broncos last round in one of the strangest NRL matches in recent memory, an 8-5 result at Suncorp Stadium.
The home team will be buoyed by the return of hard-hitting center Steve Matai for this one, meaning the in-form Peter Hiku pushes to the wing with David Williams dropping out.
The Panthers also get a big boost with the return of star hooker James Segeyaro. His return means Isaac John drops out while Tyrone Peachey's two-game suspension sees Sika Manu return on the bench.
Watch Out Sea Eagles: James Segeyaro is back for the Panthers and, if he picks up where he left off, could spell danger for the Manly ruck defence. Segeyaro is one the most fleet-footed hookers in the game and will constantly threaten opposition defenders in behind the play the ball. Sea Eagles forwards will be hoping to win the wrestle in order to stop the dynamic Panthers hooker finding space and time out of dummy half.
Watch Out Panthers: The Sea Eagles hold the definite advantage in the centers. With Steve Matai returning, two of the NRL's most experienced and effective centers go head-to-head with the least experienced combination in the NRL. Waqa Blake and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will have their hands full trying to contain their opposites with Lyon being one of the game's smartest operators out wide and Matai being one of the most bruising.
Key Match-Up: Daly Cherry-Evans v Jamie Soward. For the second week running at Brookvale Oval, two sides go head-to-head with one key playmaker each. Last week Daly Cherry-Evans blossomed with the added pressure of running the Manly attack by himself; hopefully for the Panthers' sake Jamie Soward was taking notes. Soward is one of the most skillful and experienced halves in the game and will need all his attacking ability on Monday night in order manufacture points against a tough Manly backline. With both teams fairly well matched across the rest of the park, whoever gets the upper hand in the playmaking department will go a long way to secure the two points.
The History: Played 80; Sea Eagles 50, Panthers 29, 1 draw. Penrith won 22-12 against the Sea Eagles in Round 6 in an injury-depleted match, with Josh Mansour's try-scoring double was the difference.
What Are The Odds: Sportsbet punters are back on the Manly bandwagon and they've invested twice the money on the Sea Eagles in comparison to the Panthers. Even Manly 13+ has been popular. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Gavin Morris. Assistant Referee: Alan Shortall. Touch Judges: Michael Wise, David Munro. Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Steve Folkes.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7:00pm
The Way We See It: The Manly Sea Eagles are in last position on the table because of an injury curse. With key players returning to their team they've changed their fortunes around with impressive back-to-back victories coming into this one. The Panthers have also been hit hard by injury but still look like they are desperately missing Peter Wallace. The big difference between these two teams comes in the backline; it looks as though the Sea Eagles are a class above. They'll win well at home. Manly by 14.