Panthers out to avenge Dragons loss
It may have been six months ago but the Dragons' upset 42-10 thrashing of the Panthers in Round 1 still eats away at Penrith lock Trent Merrin.
And the big man says his teammates haven't forgotten the ambush St George Illawarra imposed on the Panthers after pre-season hype installed Anthony Griffin's men heavy favourites to open 2017 with a big win.
For months the side prepared for the opening game of the season but were dealt with a deflating 32-point loss at the hands of the underdogs who dominated the forward battle.
The Dragons are now in a do-or-die predicament and Merrin admits the task of ending his former club's season will provide enough motivation to make amends for the Round 1 embarrassment.
"It would be great, but all we can control is ourselves," Merrin said of the prospect of beating the Dragons this time.
"There's still a bit of pain there and they made themselves feel welcome in Round 1.
"You don't forget a loss like that, it was a tough one to walk away from and we'll hold onto a bit of that."
Merrin made a successful return from a knee injury a week earlier than expected against Canberra on Sunday.
Panthers coach Anthony Griffin eased the Australian international back into the game after a month on the sidelines with 38 minutes off the bench.
He returned the favour with 125 metres from 13 carries.
"It's just like life, you set yourself little goals and set out to achieve them. It's a credit to the medical staff to put me in that position to let me get back when I wanted to and put that trust in me," Merrin said.
"The way that the team is going it was always going to be hard to find a position in this squad so it was great the way 'Hook' (Griffin) rotated us and got me involved.
"[The knee pulled up] all good, is a bit tender now and sore but that's always the case when you come back early after an injury."
Penrith have secured their spot in the top eight after overcoming a finals-like pressure situation in the nation's capital.
Griffin said the side had to "win the game twice" after racing out to an early lead before being forced to come from behind and Merrin said the nature of the win would give the Panthers a confidence boost heading into the finals.
"They were playing for their season and we were in their backyard," Merrin said of the Raiders.
"We slipped away there and let them back into it so it was a tough and gutsy effort that we needed heading into the backend of the season.
"We had front-rowers chasing down wingers and players tying in as defenders to save tries and that's what you want to see.
"We've done the best we possibly can to put ourselves in a great position and all we need now is for everyone to get behind us."