Panthers v Wests Tigers: Schick Preview
Schick Hydro Preview: Penrith Panthers v Wests Tigers
A family affair awaits with Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary taking on son Nathan and Kiwi international Dallin Watene-Zelezniak coming up one-on-one with brother Malakai for the first time as the Panthers host their third of four games in a row at Pepper Stadium.
The family rivalries add enough intrigue to a clash that looks one-sided on paper with the Panthers desperate to keep their finals aspirations alive, while the joint venture will be keen to spoil the party and secure back-to-back wins.
The sides met earlier in the season but it's safe to say a lot has happened since then. Both five-eighths from the Round 2 clash in Mitchell Moses and Te Maire Martin have departed their respective clubs, while positional changes and coaches have come and gone.
In team news, Panthers skipper Matt Moylan has been named on the reserves list and is no guarantee to force his way into the starting line-up with ongoing doubts over a hamstring injury.
Penrith have named Bryce Cartwright on the bench in place of Leilani Latu (broken jaw), while Dean Whare is also a chance to make a return after missing a month with the same injury.
Cleary has named the same 17 that defeated the Titans on the weekend with five ex-Panthers lining up in Tigers colours including promising forward Matt Eisenhuth.
Why the Panthers can win: Griffin's men are storming home late in matches with 25 tries in the final 20 minutes of games this season – more than any other side in the Telstra Premiership. They're grinding out gritty wins on the back of strong defence and despite not playing their best attacking football, have conceded 71 line breaks this season – 37 fewer in comparison with the Tigers. Don't expect the Panthers to give away any seven tackle sets either with Cleary's kicking game on point to only concede 13 for the season – the second best behind Newcastle (9).
Why the Wests Tigers can win: They match it with the Panthers on paper in most aspects so will need some of their big name players to add the spark. The Tigers will need to win the battle in the middle and further add to their high rate of passing between forwards to move the Penrith defensive line around. Both sides are guilty of throwing the game plan out the window and playing an off the cusp style of football and as a result are first and second for the worst in errors and missed tackles. The visitors have maintained their strong offload ability throughout the season and the Panthers are the worst in the competition for not wrapping up the ball in defence – conceding at least 12 offloads per contest.
 Telstra Premiership: Dallin Watene Zelezniak vs Malakai Watene Zelezniak
Tries, Line Breaks, Tackle Breaks, Minutes Played.
The history: Played 30, Panthers 18, Wests Tigers 12. Penrith have won four of the last five clashes between the two sides including a 36-2 win back in Round 2. Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary has a strong record against his former club with seven wins from 11 starts as head coach while at the Warriors.
Departing fullback James Tedesco requires one try for 50 career four-pointers as a Wests Tigers player but is yet to get over the line against the Panthers in three appearances – the only opposition club in the competition.
What are the odds: This game is a bit of a mixed bag as far as betting is concerned. Twice the money is on Penrith in the head-to-head market, yet there are plenty of one-eyed Wests Tigers fans that are backing the visitors to win 13+ at juicy odds. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Gavin Badger. Assistant referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski. Touch judges: Dave Munro and Phil Henderson. Review Officials: Ben Cummins and Luke Patten.
Televised: Channel 9 and Fox League – Live from 4:00pm.
NRL.com predicts: This looms as a danger game for the Panthers with Ivan Cleary's side building in recent weeks and keen to finish higher than 15th position on the Telstra Premiership ladder. It should be a cracking Sunday afternoon but you get the feeling with a lot to play for, the Panthers will be out to keep their recent home ground record intact and continue to put the pressure on the current top eight. Panthers by 8.