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Panthers face danger game against under siege Bulldogs.
While Penrith well and truly kept their finals hopes alive last week with a 24-16 win over the Titans, other results did not go their way. The Dragons' victory in particular was a blow seeing that Paul McGregor's men gave their points differential a significant boost with the 30-point win. Therefore, a comprehensive score line would be valuable this week. However, coach Anthony Griffin will be understandably wary of a Bulldogs side who will been keen to throw their support behind the under pressure Des Hasler. In addition, Griffin's men have to contend with a five-day turnaround with the only solace being that they will play in front of their home fans at Pepper Stadium once again. As a result of the short turnaround, skipper Matt Moylan has been rested with a hamstring issue with Tyrone May named in his place for his second NRL game. Bryce Cartwright and Dean Whare have also been included on the extended bench and are a chance of returning from injury, so keep an eye out on the late mail.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will be playing for pride on Thursday as they look to bounce back from last week's 42-12 thumping at the hands of Brisbane. The loss was really a result of two significant lapses in defensive concentration from Hasler's men. The first saw the Broncos strike twice in the final four minutes of the first half to take a 16-6 into the break. Then, after holding the home side out for eighteen minutes, the Bulldogs collapsed to concede three tries in the space of six minutes, effectively ending their slim hopes of a finals miracle in the process. Confidence may be low at Belmore at the moment, however, there is a reason for hope. Earlier this year, Canterbury suffered a 36-0 loss to Manly only to respond the following week with a 10-7 win over Brisbane. Then, in the last meeting between these two sides, Penrith walloped the Bulldogs 38-0. The Bulldogs would go on to win their following game against the Dragons 16-2. This suggests two things - firstly, that the Panthers must not be too overconfident coming into this one, otherwise they may risk a similar fate to the Broncos and Dragons. Secondly, if the Bulldogs are to pull off the upset, it appears as if their defence will be key.
Last meeting: Round 13 2017 - Bulldogs 0 Panthers 38
As alluded to earlier, it was all the Panthers in the last meeting between these two Western Sydney rivals. That win came in Round 13 earlier this year, when the Panthers continued their mid-season resurgence with a 38-0 shutout at ANZ Stadium. Perhaps revenge may be on the cards on Thursday.
Who to watch: For the home side, look for Reagan Campbell-Gillard to put in another barnstorming performance against the big Bulldogs pack. Campbell-Gillard has been enormous in Trent Merrin's absence, averaging 178 metres in the past fortnight from 60 minutes of play. His intensity and mongrel has inspired his fellow teammates and he will need to do the same against a Bulldogs side who welcomes back skipper James Graham this week.
The return of Graham is a massive boost for the Bulldogs, who have lacked any real desire in previous weeks. Last week's loss to Brisbane was rather embarrassing, and not many come more passionate than the Bulldogs captain does. Graham's passion up front could be just what an uninspired Bulldogs side needs to claim an unlikely victory on Thursday night.
The favourite: The Panthers are favoured to make it four-straight wins on Thursday night despite Moylan's absence.
My tip: The result of this one is entirely dependent on the Bulldogs' confidence. If it is shot, it will only be a matter of Penrith by how many. However, I have a feeling we may see a response from Hasler's men this week. Nevertheless, it still will not be enough against a Penrith side with just too much to play for. Penrith by 8.
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Tyrone Peachey 4. Waqa Blake 5. Dallin Watene Zelezniak 6. Tyrone May 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Peter Wallace 16. Tim Browne 11. Corey Harawira 12. Isaah Yeo 17. James Fisher-Harris 10. Regan Campbell-Gillard 14. Sione Katoa 15. Leilani Latu 18. Bryce Cartwright
1. William Hopoate 20. Kerrod Holland 3. Josh Morris 4. Chase Stanley 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Matt Frawley 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Moses Mbye 10. James Graham 11. Josh Jackson 12. Adam Elliot 13. David Klemmer 14. Sam Kasiano 15. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 16. Danny Fualalo 17. Michael Lichaa
Referees: Ben Cummins, Dave Munro; Sideline Officials: Nick Beashel, Tim Roby; Video Referees: Luke Patten, Bernard Sutton;