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The Panthers snapped back into the winners’ circle last round after two straight losses with a convincing 28-point win over the Roosters.

But it’s how their Origin platoon return from NSW-Queensland duties that will have a say in their fortunes against the Eels. Coach Ivan Cleary rested his halves, lock Isaah Yeo, and utility Kurt Capewell against the Sharks and lost a close one 19-18.

The Sharks were not in the top eight back then but the Eels are – sitting in third spot, or one win and one position below the Panthers.

Firmly in the Panthers' favour is the fact Friday night’s game is at BlueBet Stadium, where they have not lost so far this season – an impressive 8-0 home record and counting.

This is the first meeting in 2021 for these two western Sydney powerhouses.

The Eels also arrive in round 16 with a certain amount of confidence – they are chasing four wins in a row after scoring 116 points in their past three and conceding just 26. Then again the competition were bottom-eight dwellers Knights, Wests Tigers and Bulldogs.

The rundown

Team news

Panthers: Penrith will start 1-17 with Izack Tago the 18th man.

Nathan Cleary will miss the next month due to the shoulder injury he suffered in Origin II. Blues teammate Jarome Luai has been named at halfback with Matt Burton moving from centre to five-eighth and Tyrone May coming into the centres.

Fullback Dylan Edwards (foot) is out so Charlie Staines goes to fullback and Brent Naden comes onto the wing for his first game of 2021 with Paul Momirovski (hip) and Robert Jennings (hamstring) also unavailable.

Viliame Kikau returns from a hamstring strain in the back row so Liam Martin goes to the interchange and Spencer Leniu to the reserves.

Brian To'o, Isaah Yeo and Kurt Capewell have all been named to back up from Origin II along with Luai. 

Jaeman Salmon and Taylan May were omitted from the extended bench 24 hours before kick-off.

The Panthers have won 16 consecutive games at BlueBet Stadium.

Eels: In a change announced an hour before kick-off, Junior Paulo moves back to the bench with Marata Niukore named to start at prop. Will Smith is the 18th man.

Maika Sivo's return from suspension means two-try debutant Sean Russell makes way.

The other changes are on the bench where Nathaniel Roache (knee) and Keegan Hipgrave make way for Oregon Kaufusi and Bryce Cartwright.

Sean Russell and Jake Arthur dropped off the extended bench on Thusday night.

Reed Mahoney (shoulder) is unlikely to be back before round 18.

Eels prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard will play his 150th NRL game.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Charlie Staines
    Fullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton Gutherson
  • Winger for Panthers is number 2 Brent Naden
    Winger for Eels is number 2 Maika Sivo
  • Centre for Panthers is number 3 Stephen Crichton
    Centre for Eels is number 3 Tom Opacic
  • Centre for Panthers is number 4 Tyrone May
    Centre for Eels is number 4 Waqa Blake
  • Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'o
    Winger for Eels is number 5 Haze Dunster
  • Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Matt Burton
    Five-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Dylan Brown
  • Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Jarome Luai
    Halfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell Moses

Forwards

  • Prop for Panthers is number 8 Moses Leota
    Prop for Eels is number 8 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
  • Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
    Hooker for Eels is number 9 Joey Lussick
  • Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-Harris
    Prop for Eels is number 14 Marata Niukore
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
    2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Isaiah Papali'i
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Kurt Capewell
    2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Ryan Matterson
  • Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo
    Lock for Eels is number 13 Nathan Brown

Interchange

  • Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Mitch Kenny
    Interchange for Eels is number 10 Junior Paulo
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Scott Sorensen
    Interchange for Eels is number 15 Shaun Lane
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Spencer Leniu
    Interchange for Eels is number 16 Oregon Kaufusi
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Liam Martin
    Interchange for Eels is number 17 Bryce Cartwright

Reserves

  • Reserve for Panthers is number 18 Izack Tago
    Reserve for Eels is number 19 Will Smith

Match Officials

  • Referee: Ashley Klein
  • Touch Judge: Phil Henderson
  • Touch Judge: Todd Smith
  • Senior Review Official: Henry Perenara

Last updated:

Key match-up

Junior Paulo v James Fisher-Harris: If the Eels big man is able to back up from Origin, his tussle in the middle with Fisher-Harris will be a beauty. But, if not, former Panther Reagan Campbell-Gillard trying to contain former pack partners like Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota, Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin will mean a hectic evening for him.

Stat attack

Between them, Panthers duo Brian To'o (3166m) and James Fisher-Harris (2643m) have carried the ball for just over 5.8km. Stephen Crichton is also in the top 10 in the NRL in this category.

 

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