Schick Hydro Preview: Penrith Panthers v Canberra Raiders
Carrington Park, Bathurst
The Panthers and Raiders go head-to-head for the second time in the 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership season, as Penrith take another home game to Carrington Park in Bathurst.
In their Round 1 encounter, Canberra prevailed in a thriller, getting home on mental toughness to edge their opposition 30-22 on a sweltering day in the nation's capital.
This time the Panthers will be hell bent on levelling the ledger, and with some returning stars they'll get a big boost at just the right time.
Dean Whare (calf), James Segeyaro (arm) and Sam McKendry (suspension) all return for this Round 9 clash, however the Panthers will be without young gun Te Maire Martin, who has been ruled out for the season with a fractured shoulder.
Meanwhile, the Raiders come into this clash high on life after monstering Wests Tigers 60-6 last start.
They'll be hoping that momentum rolls into this Saturday afternoon clash, and there's no reason it can't with the same 17 named to play as last week.
Blake Austin could be considered a slight chance at playing, having been scheduled to return this weekend from a hamstring complaint.
Clay Priest keeps his spot on the bench ahead of 18th man Frank-Paul Nuuausala, after a powerful debut last weekend.
Watch out Panthers: The Raiders are on a roll and it's largely thanks to their dominance in the middle of the park. While the outside backs were getting the glory in their huge win last week – it was the men in the middle who really deserved the praise. Frightening performances from the likes of Shannon Boyd, Paul Vaughan and Josh Papalii had the Tigers on the back foot all game. If Ricky Stuart has them as fired up this weekend, the Panthers could be in some real trouble.
Watch out Raiders: The dynamic James Segeyaro is back and has a point to prove after suffering a fractured arm in his Round 1 clash with the Raiders. The elusive hooker was considered good to go last week but was forced to wait in the wings due to the form of Peter Wallace at No.9. Now he'll be hoping to entrench himself in the position with a big game, and show Anthony Griffin that he should always be an automatic selection at rake. The Canberra big men will have to be at their best around the ruck to minimise Segeyaro's impact.
Key Match-Up: Peter Wallace v Aidan Sezer. These two hard-nosed halfbacks will be crucial to their side's hopes on Saturday afternoon. Wallace will be returning to the halves after a successful spell at hooker, hoping to keep the attacking spark going without Te Maire Martin. He'll also be hoping to outshine Sezer who was man of the match in these sides' last meeting, scoring a double while nursing a broken cheekbone. Sezer was back to his best last weekend against the Tigers, and will once again have plenty of attacking responsibility in the absence of Austin.
The History: Played 68; Panthers 33, Raiders 34, Drawn 1. Last time these two met the Raiders prevailed 30-22 in Round 1 this year.
What are the Odds: All of the early money was on Penrith until the Raiders put 60 on Wests Tigers last weekend. Ever since, the ledger has evened up and Sportsbet punters can't decide on the winner here. Both teams have been backed to win 1-12 so expect a tight one. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Gavin Reynolds. Assistant Referee: Alan Shortall. Sideline Officials: Brett Suttor and Rohan Best.
Televised: Fox Sports 1, coverage from 2:30pm.
The way we see it: There's plenty to like about both teams this weekend. The Panthers have been playing some good, tough football, and welcome back three of their best players. Meanwhile the Raiders put up one of their best performances of the last decade last start. Based on that sizzling form, and some consistency in their line-up, we're tipping them to prevail in a tight one. Raiders by two points.