Anyone can contribute to The Roar and have their work featured alongside some of Australia’s most prominent sports journalists.
The last preliminary final spot gets decided tonight when the Penrith Panthers take on the Parramatta Eels at BB Print Stadium in Mackay. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 7:50pm (AEST).
Until last Saturday night, most people were tipping a Storm vs Panthers grand final. However, with the Rabbitohs prevailing in a big qualifying final upset, the Panthers need to win tonight to earn the right to play the reigning premiers for a spot in the big dance. A loss would be sickening for Panthers fans, after barely losing a game all season.
Against a South Sydney defence that, admittedly, was at its very best, Penrith stumbled to a 16-10 loss. Nathan Cleary was nowhere near the top of his game, while Jarome Luai was barely sighted. The Rabbits targeted Brian To’o and limited Penrith’s metres at the start of each set.
To be fair to the halves though, the pack was poor, getting completely dominated by the likes of George Burgess. They do get some troops back this weekend, but the likes of James Fisher-Harris and Kurt Capewell need better games for the Panthers to bounce back.
In welcome news for Penrith, Moses Leota returns from a leg injury, pushing Matt Eisenhuth out of the 17. Scott Sorensen makes his return from the interchange bench. Dylan Edwards also returns at fullback, with Stephen Crichton on the wing, while Charlie Staines falls out of the side.
The Eels beat the Knights 28-20 in a tight contest last Sunday afternoon; but despite the scoreline, they appeared to be in total control. The Eels pack was dominant, with the Knights forced to come off their line time and time again.
Mitchell Moses played his best finals game to date. Whilst we expect his kicking game to be on point, it was his running game that was a real point of difference. Junior Paulo had another large game, making hefty post-contact metres and multiple offloads.
Ryan Matterson has been named after missing the 17 last week, while Makahesi Makatoa drops out.
The Eels will come into this one full of confidence after recent wins against the Storm and Knights.
Conversely, the Panthers were flat last week and now are under immense pressure as they try to avoid a straight-sets exit.
However, this team is too good to take on that fate. This 17 is close to the best they can put on the park and I’m tipping the Penrith mojo to return.
Penrith Panthers by 12
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Stephen Crichton 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Matt Burton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary (c) 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo
Bench/Reserves: 14. Mitch Kenny 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Tevita Pangai Jr 17. Liam Martin | 18. Spencer Leniu 19. Izack Tago 20. Brent Naden 21. Tyrone May
1. Clint Gutherson (c) 2. Haze Dunster 3. Will Penisini 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Ray Stone 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Marata Niukore 13. Nathan Brown
Bench/Reserves: 14. Will Smith 15. Isaiah Papali’i 16. Bryce Cartwright 17. Ryan Matterson | 18. Makahesi Makatoa 19. Oregon Kaufusi 20. Tom Opacic 21. Jake Arthur