Schick Hydro preview: Dragons v Panthers
Easter Sunday will play host to an NRL blockbuster when the Dragons host the Panthers with both sides earning big upsets in Round 3.
The Panthers recorded a one-point victory over the Brisbane Broncos while the Dragons hung tough at the Sydney Cricket Ground against old rivals South Sydney – both teams recording their first win of the year.
Trent Merrin will also enter WIN Stadium on Sunday in unfamiliar territory when he plays against his former Dragons teammates for the first time.
The Shellharbour Sharks junior missed Penrith's win over Brisbane due to a virus, but you'd be a brave human to try and stop him from missing this one.
Merrin and centre Waqa Blake's returns sees Tyrone Peachey and Elijah Taylor return to the bench with Jeremy Latimore ruled out due to suspension.
The Dragons are unchanged, and it will be left to Russell Packer and Jack de Belin to dull the impact of their former teammate.
Watch out Dragons: It only took three weeks into the season for it to happen, but Te Maire Martin looked every bit the first grade player during his NRL debut last Saturday. A recognised star before his first game, Martin truly lived up to hype thanks to his late five-point haul, to help Penrith sneak away with the competition points.
Watch out Panthers: While the weather made the SCG resemble a swimming pool rather than a football paddock the Dragons found much-needed balance in their backline. Josh Dugan's return to fullback was met with relief by fans and he repaid their faith with a 212 metre haul. Others like Euan Aitken (142 metres, 26 tackles) and Jason Nightingale (135 metres, one try) managed their best games of the season too.
Key Match-Up: Tyson Frizell v Bryce Cartwright – Both men are hoping to make their State of Origin debuts for New South Wales in two months time, so consider this one an audition. Frizell is slowly returning to the grind after back surgery ruined his pre-season. He looked to have returned to full fitness against the Rabbitohs by producing 121 metres and 41 tackles. Cartwright is a different prospect; he completed his first full NRL pre-season just weeks ago. The 21-year-old offers Laurie Daley a completely different dynamic if chosen as seen by his six tackle breaks and four offloads against Brisbane.
The History: Played 29; Dragons 17, Panthers 12. The Red V's last start win over Penrith was a rare occasion considering recent history. Not including their 19-12 win in Round 24 last year, the Dragons have lost six of their past seven against their upcoming opponents dating back to midway through the 2010 season.
What are the Odds: Penrith have firmed from their opening quote of $2.35, having twice the money put on them compared to the Red V. The best backed margin with Sportsbet is Penrith 13+ while the visitors have been backed to cover the line too. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant Referee: Adam Gee. Sideline Officials: Jason Walsh and Kasey Badger.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 3:30pm; Fox Sports 1 – Live coverage from 3:30pm
The way we see it: This one will go down to the wire. The only difference between the two is that Penrith had to put together an extraordinary second half to claw their way back into proceedings. Not even 24 hours later the Dragons nutted out a thorough 80 minute performance. This gives the Red V something to expand upon as the Panthers remain in the hunt for a whole-game showing. Dragons by four points.