Penrith Panthers v Sydney Roosters
Are the Panthers are back? Considering they have sunk the Wests Tigers and the reigning premiers South Sydney over the past fortnight, it would take a hard taskmaster to suggest otherwise.
Penrith are a rejuvenated bunch, and considering their run to the preliminary finals last season without plenty of their key stars – imagine what they can do with a whole host of them back in the team.
A victory won't come easy this Saturday afternoon though. Coming up against a Roosters team who are sitting third on the Telstra Premiership ladder, Penrith will need to be at their best considering their opponents have won three straight games without reaching any great heights on the paddock.
Working in the mountain men's favour though is the fact four Roosters – Boyd Cordner, Mitch Pearce, Aidan Guerra and Michael Jennings – have been named to back up from the Origin decider. However, both teams are unchanged from their last-start victories.
UPDATE: Aidan Guerra is a late withdrawal from the Roosters side, with Boyd Cordner to start from the bench. Final teams
Watch out Panthers: With his NRL performances of late being reasonably quiet, expect Pearce to shake off the Origin period the best way possible – by narrowing his focus back on the Roosters' fortunes. As halves partner James Maloney continues to build, expect Pearce to jump on board wholeheartedly from now on in. After the Blues' massive loss on Wednesday night, Pearce will carry plenty of emotions from his return to the representative arena into this one.
Watch out Roosters: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck isn't the only young Kiwi star impressing at fullback this season, with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in superb form. Against South Sydney last Friday in the Panthers' shock victory, the 19-year-old was everywhere. Running for 173 metres, scoring a try and breaking eight tackles, Watene-Zelezniak continues to prove why the custodian role is his preferred position.
Key Match-Up: Bryce Cartwright v Boyd Cordner. In a couple of years time these two men could very well be lining up side by side for Laurie Daley's New South Wales team, but for now they'll have to make do facing one another on Saturday afternoon. Cordner hasn't been in the best of form lately but with the Origin series now behind him, his focus is sure to narrow in on stopping the amazing form of Bryce Cartwright. In a man-of-the-match performance against the Rabbitohs where he produced 227 metres and four offloads, the 20-year-old Panthers back-rower reigned supreme and will be out to continue that against Cordner.
The History: Played 84; Panthers 31, Roosters 52, Drawn 1. The Roosters finally bucked a trend when these two clubs last played back in Round 3. The Tricolours' 20-12 victory was the first time either side failed to win consecutive games against one another for the first time in eight seasons. Between 2008 and 2014, the Roosters and Panthers won (and lost) in blocks of two, bar the Roosters' three game run in 2013-14.
What are the Odds: Sportsbet customers have been rushing to bet on the Panthers with the handicap but they’re also confident Penrith can get the job done straight up too. Twice as many dollars are on the Panthers to win. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match Officials: Referee – Ashley Klein; Assistant Referee – David Munro; Sideline Officials – Brett Suttor and Matt Noyen; Video Referees – Shayne Hayne and Daniel Irvine.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 (Live) – 5:30pm
The Way We See It: The Roosters have won three on the trot but not once have any of these victories been convincing. While the beauty of the Roosters winning whilst playing well below their best bodes well for a late season surge, when it comes to Penrith's season and where they're positioned on the ladder, their desperation should shine through. After dominating South Sydney at home, Penrith could very well cause their second boilover in eight days. Panthers by 6.