The Sharks forwards overpowered the Panthers pack the last time these two met but with the NRL finals beckoning for Ivan Cleary's men that shouldn't be the case on home turf this time.
Six of the Sharks forwards ran for more than 110 metres in the round six 24-20 win at PointsBet Stadium, while only James Fisher-Harris scaled those heights for the Panthers.
But the forwards led by James Tamou, Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota, Liam Martin and Isaah Yeo - with the first three playing every game this year - will be up for a re-match with Andrew Fifita, Matt Prior, Kurt Capewell and Paul Gallen. And they will need to be as the Sharks are fourth in the NRL for line breaks.
The Sharks' win over the Rabbitohs knocked Penrith out of the eight last week so there could be a little more feeling in this one.
Match: Panthers v Sharks
Round 21 -
Venue: Panthers Stadium, Penrith
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
Panthers: Stephen Crichton makes his debut in place of Dean Whare who has been dropped to Canterbury Cup. Moses Leota has been promoted to lock with Isaah Yeo dropping back to the bench. Jed Cartwright is the other cut from the match-day 17. Brent Naden takes his place despite failing to complete training on Monday. The return of Viliame Kikau from a two-week suspension sees Frank Winterstein drop out of the side. Interchange players Jarome Luai (eye) and Wayde Egan (shoulder) are both out with Sione Katoa and 18-year-old rookie Spencer Leniu the new names on the bench. James Maloney was suspended on Tuesday night with Panthers blooding rookie five-eighth Matt Burton to replace him.
Sharks: Josh Dugan shifts to fullback for injured Matt Moylan (concussion), while Sosaia Feki will start on the wing and Josh Morris moves to centre. No other changes to the team that thumped the Rabbitohs last week. Billy Magoulias and Blayke Brailey dropped off the extended bench on Thursday night while Sione Katoa and Kyle Flanagan were the final cuts an hour before kick-off.
Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan EdwardsFullback for Sharks is number 1 Josh Dugan
Winger for Panthers is number 2 Josh MansourWinger for Sharks is number 2 Sosaia Feki
Centre for Panthers is number 20 Stephen CrichtonCentre for Sharks is number 3 Bronson Xerri
Centre for Panthers is number 4 Brent NadenCentre for Sharks is number 4 Josh Morris
Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'oWinger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 21 Matt BurtonFive-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun Johnson
Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan ClearyHalfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad Townsend
Prop for Panthers is number 8 James TamouProp for Sharks is number 8 Aaron Woods
Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Mitchell KennyHooker for Sharks is number 9 Jayden Brailey
Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-HarrisProp for Sharks is number 10 Matt Prior
2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham
Lock for Panthers is number 16 Moses LeotaLock for Sharks is number 13 Paul Gallen
Interchange for Panthers is number 13 Isaah YeoInterchange for Sharks is number 14 Kurt Capewell
Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Sione KatoaInterchange for Sharks is number 15 Jack Williams
Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Spencer LeniuInterchange for Sharks is number 16 Andrew Fifita
Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Reagan Campbell-GillardInterchange for Sharks is number 17 Braden Hamlin-Uele
Sharks general Chad Townsend and Panthers playmaker Nathan Cleary are cut from the same cloth. Steady, controlling halfbacks who defend solidly, the two No.7s must come to the fore and marshal their troops expertly.
For the Panthers to win
The same as it is every week - keep those penalties down. And keep engaging the line as the Panthers are high up the list on that count, in fact bettered only by the Rabbitohs.
For the Sharks to win
Cronulla lead the NRL for line-break assists when the likes of Shaun Johnson, Matt Moylan and Townsend are on song. Townsend says Johnson has been outstanding in challenging the line in recent weeks as he gets more confident in both the Sharks communication systems and in his troublesome hamstring.
Brett Kimmorley says
This is a big one for the finals aspirations of both teams. Penrith were a little disappointing last week. Wade Graham was unbelievable last week as a leader and also with the toughness and skill out wide. Sharks by 2
This desperate clash could go down to the wire – and Penrith are traditionally better when it comes to a field goal shootout but the ban for Maloney, who leads the NRL with four one-pointers in 2019, means Nathan Cleary will have to step up if the game is tied late. The Sharks landed their first field goal of the year last round when the pressure was off. However, they did beat Penrith by a point last year to knock them out of the finals.
And another thing ...
The Sharks score an average 19 points per game, and the Panthers concede that many per match. These two clubs are both in the NRL top-five for the number of penalties they give away. So this could be a stop-start, grinding sort of game at the foot of the mountains.