Rabbitohs v Panthers preview
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Penrith Panthers
The Penrith Panthers have one last shot at survival this Sunday afternoon having lost three in a row to sit in 12th position on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder.
However they'll have the opportunity to arrest that slide against the team that they recorded their most recent victory, back in Round 17 at Pepper Stadium.
On that night the South Sydney Rabbitohs had no match for the skill of young Panther Bryce Cartwright, scoring just one try to Penrith's four.
Penrith's injury curse is only growing more destructive as the season wears on, this week Dean Whare (broken thumb), Nigel Plum (concussion) and Peter Wallace (torn ACL) are added to the casualty ward.
Waqa Blake moves into Whare's vacant centre position with winger Josh Mansour returning to provide some star power to the backline.
Isaac John replaces Wallace in the halves, with Sam McKendry starting at prop and Apisai Koroisau returning on the bench against his old team.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak could make a surprise return from injury late in the piece.
Meanwhile for South Sydney, Kyle Turner finally returns from a neck injury in place of Ben Lowe.
Watch out Rabbitohs: While the Panthers were disappointing in going down to the Raiders last week, they remained dynamic in attack, mainly thanks to the genius of James Segeyaro out of dummy half. He had a linebreak, try assist and a try of his own in a brilliant all-round performance and will be looking to bring that stellar form into this weekend's clash, against one of the game's best in the hooker position in Issac Luke. The Bunnies will be making sure they are focused in their marker defence to nullify Segeyaro's brilliant running game.
Watch Out Panthers: Greg Inglis exploded back onto the scene to remind everyone why he is widely considered the best ball-runner in the NRL. He had three linebreaks, three tries and a try assist in the Bunnies demolition of the Knights last week and will be looking to torment an understrength Panthers backline this weekend. With a number of Penrith combinations untested and players out of position, Inglis could set this game alight if he gets a bit of space to stretch out.
Key Match-Up: Jamie Soward v Adam Reynolds. The halfback battle will be the key positional match-up on Sunday afternoon. The reason being, if the Panthers are any hoping of winning it's a battle that the experienced and skillful Soward will have to dominate. With his halves partner Wallace ruled out for the remainder of the season, it's now or never for the Panthers star to put his team on his back and lead them to victory. He'll have to be the instigator of points and at times he'll have to be the finisher if his team are to have a chance. Meanwhile, his opposite number Reynolds will have a much more straightforward assignment on Sunday afternoon. Calmly guide his big pack around the park, and spread the ball to his strike men on the outside.
The History: Played 76; Rabbitohs 42, Panthers 33, Drawn 1. Last time these two met the Panthers beat the Rabbitohs 20-6 thanks to some individual brilliance from Bryce Cartwright and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
What Are The Odds: Sportsbet have been struggling to take a bet on the Panthers, with 90% of all head to bets going on South Sydney. The Bunnies to win 13+ has been extremely popular as well. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Televised: Live Channel 9, 4pm
Match Officials: Referee: Jared Maxwell. Assistant Referee: Matt Cecchin. Touch Judges: Adam Reid and Nick Beashel. Video Referees: Bernard Sutton and Luke Patten.
The Way We See It: It's now or never for the Penrith Panthers with a loss here well and truly sealing their fate at the bottom of the NRL ladder for season 2015. We'd normally give them a fighting chance in this one, considering what's at stake, but a couple of crucial injuries cripples them against an improving South Sydney outfit. We'll tip the Bunnies by 16.