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The NRL action continues tonight with the match between the Manly Sea Eagles and Penrith Panthers. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 7:35pm (AEST).
You wouldn’t normally see a battle between first and eighth as a 50/50 match up. However, for this game, at Lottoland, it’s an even-money bet.
The Sea Eagles are getting some troops back, although the big guns in Tom Trbojevic and Dylan Walker are still sitting on the sidelines.
It hasn’t stopped them in recent weeks, with back to back wins over the Eels and Cowboys. Cade Cust, in particular, has made the most of his opportunity, getting very close to a contract upgrade and providing some stiff competition for Walker.
Sean Keppie replaces Jack Gosiewski on the bench. Morgan Boyle has been named in the reserves and may get a run if Joel Thompson can’t recover from a sprained ankle. Walker has also been named in the reserves and will probably knock Lachlan Croker out of the squad if he returns.
The Panthers are arguably not being taken seriously enough for this year’s premiership, compared to the big guns in the Roosters, Storm and Eels, but they deserve their spot at the top of the ladder.
There is a lot of exciting talent at Penrith and, at the moment, they are being controlled brilliantly by Nathan Cleary and Api Koroisau. Without James Maloney, Cleary has assumed full control and looks very much an Origin halfback.
In a big in for the Panthers, Viliame Kikau returns in the back row, with Tyrone May to the interchange and Matt Burton missing out. Api Koroisau and Zane Tetevano have both been named in the reserves and could make their returns.
Saturday night at Lottoland has the strong smell of an ambush about it and, after knocking off the Eels a few weeks ago, Des Hasler will be keen on another big scalp tonight.
However, this Panthers team has shown its adaptability this year by winning with attacking flair one week and grinding out a win the next.
They have learnt how to win and I think they will edge out the Sea Eagles.
Penrith Panthers by four.
Kick-off: 7:35pm (AEST)
Venue: Lottoland, Sydney
TV: Fox Sports
Live stream: Kayo Sports, Foxtel, NRL Live Pass
1. Brendan Elliot, 2. Jorge Taufua, 3. Brad Parker, 4. Moses Suli, 5. Reuben Garrick, 6. Cade Cust, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Addin Fonua-Blake, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Martin Taupau, 11. Joel Thompson, 12. Curtis Sironen, 13. Jake Trbojevic
Bench/Reserves: 14. Lachlan Croker, 15. Corey Waddell, 16. Sean Keppie, 17. Taniela Paseka, 18. Haumole Olakau’atu, 19. Dylan Walker, 20. Tevita Funa, 21. Morgan Boyle
1. Caleb Aekins, 2. Josh Mansour, 3. Brent Naden, 4. Stephen Crichton, 5. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 6. Jarome Luai, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. James Tamou, 9. Mitch Kenny, 10. James Fisher-Harris, 11. Villame Kikau, 12. Liam Martin, 13. Isaah Yeo
Bench/Reserves: 14. Tyrone May, 15. Spencer Leniu, 16. Moses Leota, 17. Billy Burns, 18. Apisai Koroisau, 19. Matt Burton, 20. Zane Tetevano, 21. Charlie Staines