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The Mountain Men rise up

The Panthers are low on troops when they host the Sharks. (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)
Roar Guru
17th May, 2018
9

It’s official, the Penrith Panthers are the real deal.

I’ve been enthusiastically talking up the power and finesse of the St.George Illawarra Dragons and the Melbourne Storm, but it’s time they took a back seat. Even though the Panthers sit in second place, for some reason they’ve snuck under my radar.

With a horrendous injury toll, I’ve been expecting them to fall, but with Maloney at the helm, their star keeps rising.

So what did we learn from their convincing defeat of the Tigers on Thursday night in front of over 15,000 home fans?

1. Nathan Cleary is back
With his knee heavily strapped, the young Cleary was composed as usual and had some brilliant touches. This included a perfectly placed short kick early in the game to create the Panthers’ first try. You’d have to think that he only needs to stay injury-free in the next game to grab the NSW Blues halfback position.

Nathan Cleary

Nathan Cleary of the Panthers (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Cleary outshone the Tigers’ Luke Brooks who is another halfback candidate on Freddy Fitler’s shortlist. Although it was difficult for Brooks to get into the game with his side fighting the monster Panther pack, as well as a mountain of second half penalties that had the Tigers constantly on the back foot.

2. Maloney/Cleary look good for the Blues
The Penrith halves combination compliment each other perfectly. Cleary is structured and composed, which allows the creative Maloney to play what’s in front of him. Origin has always been about club combinations, so this should work in favour of the Panthers’ duo.

3. Tyrone Peachey can’t be denied
No matter what position the versatile Peachey plays, he thrives with the ball in hand. His impressive display in the centres against the Tigers should help cement his position as a bench player on Freddy’s Blues team.

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4. The power of James Tamou
The ex-Blues and Australian prop has had an average time at the Panthers since switching from his beloved Cowboys. But during the last few games he looks free of injury and is returning to his damaging best.

The 114kg prop made big metres against the Tigers and looked a threat throughout his long stint from the bench. Is he suddenly a chance for Freddy’s bench?

5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is the answer at fullback
With the injury of young fullback, Dylan Edwards, we witnessed the ongoing rise of Watene-Zelezniak as a genuine star in the fullback position. He was man of the match against the Tigers, running an impressive twenty-one times for 248 metres.

These are just five reasons the Panthers put the Tigers to the sword. This sets up a mouth-watering meeting in Round 12 when the Panthers show their true credentials against the high-flying, ladder-leading Dragons.

Who is going to be victorious?