Will Brisbane prove to be a mountain too high for Penrith?

Chris Matthews-Darby Roar Rookie

By , Chris Matthews-Darby is a Roar Rookie

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    The Penrith Panthers earned a spot in Week 2 of the NRL finals, defeating the Manly Sea Eagles 22-10 in controversial circumstances and now travel to Brisbane to play a Broncos side beaten by some Latrell Mitchell brilliance near the fulltime siren.

    To earn the right to face the Melbourne Storm for a place in the grand final, the Panthers must improve on their record in Brisbane – in 12 visits to Suncorp Stadium in the NRL era, they have only been victorious on four occasions, most recently in 2016.

    As for this season, seven of Penrith’s 11 defeats came away from Pepper Stadium, while nine of the Broncos’ 16 victories came at home – including a win over Penrith.

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    The Broncos finished the regular season third, the spot from where the premiership-winning team has finished on five occasions, including in the past three seasons.

    What’s more, the third-placed side has only been eliminated by a team finishing lower than them on five occasions, most recently in 2013, when the Newcastle Knights knocked out the Storm (which sounds crazy four years later).

    Wayne Bennett’s men have, however, suffered key injuries of late and lost two of their past three matches, while Penrith has lost just once since the beginning of July and are almost at full strength.

    There are many key battles which could decide the semi-final on the field.

    From the forward packs, the halves battle between the explosive Anthony Milford and youngster Nathan Cleary. Then there is the battle on the edge between Penrith’s Tyrone Peachey and Broncos’ leading try scorer James Roberts, who will be looking to bounce back after he was shoved to the side as Latrell Mitchell scored the winning try for the Roosters last week.

    Penrith also must work hard to shut down Ben Hunt’s influence at hooker, while Dylan Edwards will need to have a big game at the back if they are to get over the line.

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