Warriors v Panthers: Beale out; Ciraldo wields axe

With only two rounds remaining, this Friday night fixture between two teams still in top four contention should have a finals feel to it.

The Warriors and Panthers were among four top eight teams to surprisingly taste defeat in round 23 and losing to the Bulldogs and Knights respectively wasn't a good look at this late stage of the season.

The Warriors need one more win to be 100% assured of a finals invitation, while two wins might even be good enough for a top four finish (though it's unlikely).

Penrith are safely secure in the top eight and still in contention for a home final. But they will have to be a whole lot better than they have been recently to topple the Warriors and even better again in their final-round road clash with NRL titleholders Melbourne.

Match: Warriors v Panthers

Round 24 -

Full Time
Warriors

Home Team

Warriors

Scored 36 points
Panthers

Away Team

Panthers

Scored 16 points

Venue: Mt Smart Stadium

Match broadcasters:

  • Fox League
  • LIVE PASS

Key match-up: By their own high standards, halfbacks Shaun Johnson and Nathan Cleary didn't aim up for their respective sides last week. Both will be looking to make amends and their head to head clash is likely to have a big influence on the result.

For the Warriors to win: They have the worst home record (5-5) of any team in the top eight, though their last appearance at home a fortnight ago ended in a win over Newcastle. Coach Stephen Kearney will be banking on his senior players to lead, especially if it's tight down the stretch.

For the Panthers to win: Cleary understands he has to take control and direct his team more than he usually does in the absence of injured halves partner James Maloney. But he has to raise the bar even further until Maloney returns because the Panthers can't afford Cleary to take a single moment off if they are going to win.

Warriors Stat Attack: Johnson leads the NRL in field goals with four successful one-pointers - two more than Cleary. Winger David Fusitu'a has scored 18 tries to be second behind leader Valentine Holmes (19). Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is the leader in kick return metres (1141).

Panthers Stat Attack: Most of the numbers pointed to a Panthers win last week but the Knights finished ahead where it counts - on the scoreboard. The Panthers had the majority of possession, missed less tackles, made less errors and conceded less penalties.

And another thing: Two games into his NRL coaching career and Cameron Ciraldo is no doubt aware of the pressure he's under to get the Panthers performing like a worthy premiership contender. Penrith have already cemented a top-eight spot but their finals prospects look decidedly slim based on recent form.

New Zealand Warriors v Penrith Panthers, Friday 6pm at Mt Smart Stadium

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Warriors is number 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
    Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
  • Winger for Warriors is number 2 David Fusitu'a
    Winger for Panthers is number 2 Josh Mansour
  • Centre for Warriors is number 17 Peta Hiku
    Centre for Panthers is number 3 Waqa Blake
  • Centre for Warriors is number 4 Solomone Kata
    Centre for Panthers is number 4 Dean Whare
  • Winger for Warriors is number 5 Ken Maumalo
    Winger for Panthers is number 5 Christian Crichton
  • Five-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Mason Lino
    Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Tyrone Peachey
  • Halfback for Warriors is number 7 Shaun Johnson
    Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary

Forwards

  • Prop for Warriors is number 8 James Gavet
    Prop for Panthers is number 8 Trent Merrin
  • Hooker for Warriors is number 9 Issac Luke
    Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Wayde Egan
  • Prop for Warriors is number 10 Agnatius Paasi
    Prop for Panthers is number 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
  • 2nd Row for Warriors is number 15 Tohu Harris
    2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
  • 2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Adam Blair
    2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Isaah Yeo
  • Lock for Warriors is number 13 Simon Mannering
    Lock for Panthers is number 13 James Fisher-Harris

Interchange

  • Interchange for Warriors is number 11 Isaiah Papali'i
    Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Tyrone May
  • Interchange for Warriors is number 14 Jazz Tevaga
    Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Moses Leota
  • Interchange for Warriors is number 16 Bunty Afoa
    Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Corey Harawira-Naera
  • Interchange for Warriors is number 18 Leivaha Pulu
    Interchange for Panthers is number 17 James Tamou

Using the app? See this week's team lists here

Warriors: Gerard Beale (hamstring injury) is out, with Peta Hiku to start in his place in the centres.  Mason Lino comes into the halves for Blake Green (calf), who is hopeful of returning next week against Canberra. Tohu Harris has been brought into the run-on side in the final team list with Isaiah Papali'i dropping to the bench. Beale and Karl Lawton were the two players who were dropped 24 hours out from kick-off. Anthony Gelling and Chris Satae dropped out on game day with Leivaha Pulu taking the final bench spot.

Panthers: Tyrone May's relegation to the bench will see him act as back-up dummy-half to Wayde Egan while Trent Merrin's move to the starting side could signal more minutes for the middle forward – he has averaged under 40 for the past month. Adam Keighran and Liam Martin were the two players dropped from the squad 24 hours before game time. Sione Katoa and Kaide Ellis dropped out on game day.

Head-to-head: Played 40; Panthers 23 wins, Warriors 16 wins, 1 draw
Previous result: Panthers won 36-4 in round 17
Points per game: Warriors 18.9; Panthers 21.8
Points conceded per game: Warriors 18.9; Panthers 18.6
Televised: Live on Fox League

Petero Civoniceva's prediction: Last week's home loss was embarrasing for Penrith and I expect them to hit back hard. Great news with Viliame Kikau getting the all clear to travel to New Zealand and he'll have a big role to play against the huge Warriors pack. Both sides will be looking to make a statement ahead of the finals but I expect Penrith to prevail.

Tip: Panthers by 6.