Two wins on the trot might have lifted the mood out at Penrith but they haven't done much to lift their place on the ladder.
Still sitting in the cellar, this week is a true test of whether their fortunes are on the improve. After they halted a six-match losing streak with recent wins over Parramatta and Manly, now they take on the might of the Roosters.
Both sides have stars returning from Origin and the boys from Bondi will also have Cooper Cronk back guiding them around. Coming off a bye and a heavy loss to Newcastle in Round 11, the Roosters will be desperate to finish in the winner's circle and maintain their touch with the top two.
Match: Panthers v Roosters
Round 13 -
Venue: Panthers Stadium, Penrith
Panthers: Nathan Cleary comes into the starting side with Jarome Luai reverting to the bench. Mitch Kenny starts at hooker after being upgraded to the top 30 squad through the week with Wayde Egan benched. Liam Martin starts at lock with James Fisher-Harris moving to prop and Reagan Campbell-Gillard benched. Viliame Kikau has overcome illness that left him out of the side last week. Sione Katoa and Hame Sele drop out of the final 17. Kaide Ellis and Caleb Aekins dropped off the reserves list 24 hours before kick-off.
Roosters: NSW stars Latrell Mitchell and Angus Crichton are out, with Mitchell Aubusson (centre) and Sitili Tupouniua (second row) joining the starting side. Sam Verrills comes into the 17 at starting hooker and Ryan Hall at wing with Matt Ikuvalu and Victor Radley benched. Zane Tetevano replaces the suspended Jared Warea-Hargreaves at prop and Lindsay Collins joins the bench. After gaining special clearance to add Josh Curran to the squad through the week the Roosters have not selected him in the final squad.
Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan EdwardsFullback for Roosters is number 1 James Tedesco
Winger for Panthers is number 2 Josh MansourWinger for Roosters is number 2 Daniel Tupou
Centre for Panthers is number 3 Isaah YeoCentre for Roosters is number 4 Joseph Manu
Centre for Panthers is number 4 Brent NadenCentre for Roosters is number 17 Mitchell Aubusson
Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'oWinger for Roosters is number 19 Ryan Hall
Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 21 Nathan ClearyFive-Eighth for Roosters is number 6 Drew Hutchison
Halfback for Panthers is number 7 James MaloneyHalfback for Roosters is number 7 Cooper Cronk
Prop for Panthers is number 8 James TamouProp for Roosters is number 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho
Hooker for Panthers is number 20 Mitchell KennyHooker for Roosters is number 21 Sam Verrills
Prop for Panthers is number 13 James Fisher-HarrisProp for Roosters is number 15 Zane Tetevano
2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau2nd Row for Roosters is number 11 Boyd Cordner
2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Frank Winterstein2nd Row for Roosters is number 16 Sitili Tupouniua
Lock for Panthers is number 15 Liam MartinLock for Roosters is number 13 Isaac Liu
Interchange for Panthers is number 6 Jarome LuaiInterchange for Roosters is number 5 Matt Ikuvalu
Interchange for Panthers is number 9 Wayde EganInterchange for Roosters is number 9 Victor Radley
Interchange for Panthers is number 10 Reagan Campbell-GillardInterchange for Roosters is number 14 Nat Butcher
Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Moses LeotaInterchange for Roosters is number 20 Lindsay Collins
East v west. Top v bottom. Master v apprentice. Halfback against halfback. Nathan Cleary comes back from Origin to a challenge just as big in Roosters number seven Cooper Cronk. Despite Cleary's form not being up to what it was in 2018, Brad Fittler kept the faith in the youngster in handing him the Blues jersey for game one, and he'll need an Origin-like mentality when he backs up four days later. It's a mammoth challenge against Cronk who would normally be facing the same short turnaround but is instead coming off a two-week break after he was rested for the Knights game and then had the bye.
For the Panthers to win
Their forwards need to be up quick and give the Roosters no time to think. The likes of Latrell Mitchell and James Tedesco will be coming off Origin but they can still cause damage if given the space. The Panthers need to make those players work and tire them early to limit their effectiveness. Pressure should force turnovers. The Roosters have the most handling errors in the competition.
For the Roosters to win
Hang on to the ball and opportunities will come. It'll be a calmer Roosters side with Cronk back leading them around and patience should lead to points. The Panthers miss the most tackles of any team, so they just need to hang on to it and wait for those chances where their strike players can take advantage.
Brett Kimmorley says
I expect the Roosters to bounce back. They’ve had a bit of a lull but that was going to happen after they started the season so early with the World Club Challenge. They’ll rely on the players who aren’t in Origin to star in this one. Penrith have had a couple of wins, but they’ve been against sides that aren’t as good as the Sydney Roosters. Roosters by 6
The Panthers are the most penalised team in the competition. They can't afford to continue that trend against a current top-four side.
And another thing ...
It will be interesting to see how Cleary returns from Origin camp. Though no doubt fatigued from the game itself, it could be what was needed to kick off some confidence at club level. And it may be just in time for this tough match up.