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In a battle of two teams missing their biggest stars, the Penrith Panthers and Newcastle Knights will both look to pick up where they left off before the coronavirus shutdown. Join The Roar for live scores and coverage from 4:05pm (AEDT).
Penrith were riding high off back-to-back victories in the first two rounds over the Roosters and Dragons, but all that was brought crashing back to Earth by Nathan Cleary’s quarantine breach.
He will now miss a fortnight through suspension, and with Dylan Edwards also injured, it leaves Penrith with a hopelessly inexperienced spine.
While Apisai Koroisau will play at hooker, they are going to need one of the youngsters – Caleb Aekins, Matt Burton or Jarome Luai – to step up in a big way.
Even though their forward pack should be able to match it with Newcastle, it’s a real question as to where points might come from for the Panthers.
The Knights are also facing their own uphill battle. Having started the season with wins over the Warriors and Tigers – both impressive, but not against amazing opposition – they come into Round 3 minus Kalyn Ponga.
It means Tex Hoy gets his chance to shine, but their spine isn’t quite as inexperienced a Penrith’s, with Mitchell Pearce still there to guide things around.
In a game which is likely to be low-scoring due to a complete lack of reliable attacking options across the park, not only could Pearce break things open, but the Knights defence looks solid.
Exceptional would be the word to describe it in their complete shutout of the Warriors during the season opener, and while it’s impossible to predict how teams will return from a nine-week break, if they start how they finished with David Klemmer leading the way, then they might be hard for Penrith to stop.
What the Panthers will have at their disposal is excellent starts to sets though big wings Brian To’o and Josh Mansour. If they can make that count, be disciplined with the ball and dominate possession, then Jarome Luai’s running game could provide enough points.
That’s not to say Newcastle’s back five isn’t good, but it’s unreliable at best, so they will have to be prepared as a team to get gritty and likely defend plenty on their own goalline.
In a flip the coin game that could come down to one or two plays, Pearce and Klemmer should get the Knights to fall over the line.
Knights by 6.
Be sure to join The Roar for live coverage of this Sunday afternoon clash from 4:05pm (AEDT) and don’t forget to add a comment in the section below.
Kick-off: 4:05pm (AEST)
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium
TV: Live, Fox League 502, Channel 9
Online: Live, Foxtel Now, Kayo Sports, 9 Now, NRL Digital Pass,
Betting: Panthers $1.75, Knights $2.08
Overall record: Played 49, Knights 24, Panthers 22, drawn 3
Referee: Ben Cummins
1. Caleb Aekins 2. Josh Mansour 3. Dean Whare 4. Brent Naden 5. Brian To’o 6. Matt Burton 7. Jarome Luai 8. James Tamou 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo
Interchange: 14. Stephen Crichton 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Moses Leota 17. Liam Martin 18. Mitch Kenny 19. Billy Burns 20. Kaide Ellis 21. Charlie Staines
1. Tex Hoy 2. Edrick Lee 3. Enari Tuala 4. Gehamat Shibasaki 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Kurt Mann 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Connor Watson 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Sione Mata’utia 13. Herman Ese’ese
Interchange: 14. Chris Randall 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Tim Glasby 17. Aidan Guerra 18. Bradman Best 19. Brodie Jones 20. Mason Lino 21. Pasami Saulo