Titans v Panthers: RCG to start but Panthers lose Tamou; Elgey to start, Gordon out
It's a massive week for Penrith following the departure of coach Anthony Griffin, with Cameron Ciraldo taking over for his first game as caretaker coach this week.
You can look at the Panthers' uncanny knack for stealing games at the death two ways - they are premiership pretenders who will get smoked if they play like that in the finals, or they have unshakeable faith in each other and can never be counted out.
Whatever the case, the Panthers need to start sparing a thought for their fans who are sick of biting their fingernails almost every week.
Last week's comeback win over the Raiders was Penrith's 13th of the season and put them right back in the top four frame. This is a game they have to win if they are serious about clinching a home final.
The Titans hammered the Warriors a fortnight ago but didn't back it up last week against the Eels.
However, they've shown they are capable of matching it with top eight teams and can never be underestimated.
Match: Titans vs Panthers
Round 22 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Key match-up: Garth Brennan might be in his rookie season but he will go into Saturday's clash with an edge in experience over newly-named Panthers coach Ciraldo. Brennan has to come up with an effective game plan and get his players to stick to it for 80 minutes rather than 40 or 50. Ciraldo will no doubt be a little nervous but should be relishing the opportunity to take over a finals-bound team less than a month out from September.
For the Titans to win: After a poor effort against the Eels last week, the Titans need to find some mental toughness and staying power. If the forwards can get over the top of their Penrith counterparts un upset is certainly not out of the question.
For the Panthers to win: Quite often a coaching change coincides with a victory, but the Panthers sacked Griffin after wins in their past two games, though both were come-from-behind heart-stoppers. They need to tighten up defensively after conceding 55 points in both those wins.
Titans Stat Attack: Michael Gordon isn't a young pup anymore but he remains one of the game's best "backer-uppers". Gordon leads the NRL with 554 support play runs - 74 more than his nearest rival James Tedesco. On the negative side, halfback Ash Taylor is the equal leader in errors (33) with Gareth Widdop.
Panthers Stat Attack: James Maloney knows he has a reputation for missing tackles, but imagine if he ends up with double the amount of misses of any other player in the competition when the regular season wraps up in four weeks. Maloney has 137 missed tackles in 2018, while Ben Hunt is the next worst offender with 88.
And another thing: Trent Merrin will be hoping to be back in favour now that Griffin has exited, especially as it will be his 200th NRL game. Merrin has been used off the bench lately but there's plenty of people at Panther-land who believe he should be starting and playing more minutes than he has been. It'll be interesting to see how Merrin is used by Ciraldo.
Fullback for Titans is number 6 Alexander BrimsonFullback for Panthers is number 1 Tyrone Peachey
Winger for Titans is number 2 Anthony DonWinger for Panthers is number 2 Josh Mansour
Centre for Titans is number 3 Konrad HurrellCentre for Panthers is number 3 Waqa Blake
Centre for Titans is number 19 Brendan ElliotCentre for Panthers is number 4 Dean Whare
Winger for Titans is number 5 Phillip SamiWinger for Panthers is number 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Five-Eighth for Titans is number 21 Kane ElgeyFive-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 James Maloney
Halfback for Titans is number 7 Ashley TaylorHalfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary
Prop for Titans is number 8 Jarrod WallaceProp for Panthers is number 16 Moses Leota
Hooker for Titans is number 9 Nathan PeatsHooker for Panthers is number 9 Sione Katoa
Prop for Titans is number 10 Ryan JamesProp for Panthers is number 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
2nd Row for Titans is number 11 Kevin Proctor2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
2nd Row for Titans is number 12 Keegan Hipgrave2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Isaah Yeo
Lock for Titans is number 13 Jai ArrowLock for Panthers is number 13 James Fisher-Harris
Interchange for Titans is number 14 Mitch ReinInterchange for Panthers is number 14 Tyrone May
Interchange for Titans is number 15 Moeaki FotuaikaInterchange for Panthers is number 15 Trent Merrin
Interchange for Titans is number 16 Jack StockwellInterchange for Panthers is number 17 Corey Harawira-Naera
Interchange for Titans is number 17 Will MatthewsInterchange for Panthers is number 19 Jack Hetherington
Titans: Kane Elgey is finally back in first grade, promoted from the reserves to a starting five-eighth role. AJ Brimson shifts to fullback, with Michael Gordon out of the side. Brenko Lee is also out, replaced in the centres by Brendan Elliot. Keegan Hipgrave returns in the second row, pushing Will Matthews to the bench. Jai Whitbread was dropped an hour before kick-off.
Panthers: Reagan Campbell-Gillard is back in the starting line-up, but on the downside the Panthers have lost James Tamou. Moses Leota will start at prop alongside RCG, with Jack Hetherington on the bench. Kaide Ellis and Christian Crichton were the last players cut an hour before kick-off.
Head-to-head: Played 17; Panthers 11 wins, Titans 6 wins
Previous result: Panthers won 35-12 at Panthers Stadium in round 6
Points per game: Titans 19; Panthers 22.5
Points conceded per game: Titans 24.6; Panthers 18.7
Televised: Live on Fox League
Petero Civoniceva's prediction: It has been a massive week at Penrith but I don't think the change of coach will disrupt the team. They know they have to start building momentum for the finals and this is a crucial clash with just four games to play. If anything the drama will galvanise the players and they'll come out firing.
Tip: Panthers by 10