ICYMI, on Thursday the @NRL - National Rugby League released the 2018 #NRLDraw.
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More than two competition points on the line as the Panthers take on the Tigers
It is a family affair on Sunday afternoon as Nathan Cleary battles father and coach of the Wests Tigers Ivan Cleary while Dallin and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak come face to face in what is set to be an intriguing afternoon of footy. Even more valuable, however, is the two competition points on offer - particularly for the Panthers. Penrith made it four-straight wins last week with a fairly uneventful 16-8 victory over the Bulldogs. With that, Anthony Griffin's men closed in on a coveted spot within the Top Eight and will simply have to keep on winning if they want to achieve just that. With the Dragons falling on Friday night, a finals berth suddenly looks a reality, yet Griffin's troops must win Sunday afternoon's game first before they start looking towards September. Unfortunately, last week's win did claim a casualty with Leilani Latu's season over after the Prop forward suffered a broken jaw. In addition, the home side will be without skipper Matt Moylan for yet another week with the five-eighth cut from the 21-man squad on Saturday morning with a hamstring injury.
HYPHEN HYPE We're re-badging #NRLPanthersTigers the #DoubleBarrelDerby #NRL R22 TEAMS https://t.co/OVsPImlinw pic.twitter.com/KLiXybvlO1
— LeagueUnlimited.com (@LeagueUnlimited) August 1, 2017
Meanwhile, while the Tigers may be out of the running for a finals spot, they will be desperate to claim victory on Sunday as they attempt to push further ahead the Newcastle Knights and avoid the Wooden Spoon. Cleary's men took one big step towards doing just that last week when they downed the Titans 26-4. It was an impressive victory given that the Titans were fighting for their season. What would have been particularly pleasing for coach Cleary was his side's commitment in defence, missing just 16 tackles, a clear improvement given that the Tigers side averaged missing 36 tackles a game prior to the Gold Coast match. A similar performance will be needed on Sunday as Wests attempt to shut out a Panthers side eager to keep their finals aspirations alive.
Last meeting: Round 2 2017 - Wests Tigers 2 Panthers 36
The Panthers punished a poor Tigers outfit 36-2 in Round 2 this year at Campbelltown Stadium.
Who to watch: It will be interesting to watch the battle between the Watene-Zelezniaks' in this one. Malakai will be looking to impress given that his time in first grade may soon be up with Moses Suli set to return from injury in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Dallin will look to bounce back from a mixed performance last week, where he came up with one try but undid all his good work with four errors. The pair face off on the wing and will be hoping to claim individual bragging rights in their household for the coming weeks with victory on Sunday.
My tip: While the Tigers have looked good in recent weeks, the Panthers continue to find ways to win and simply have too much to play for here. If Penrith can hold strong in defence, Cleary's kicking game should guide them home. Panthers by 10.
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 13. Moses Leota 10. Regan Campbell-Gillard 14. Sione Katoa 15. Bryce Cartwright 17. James Fisher-Harris
1. James Tedesco 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Esan Marsters 4. Kevin Naiqama 5. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 6. Tuimoala Lolohea 7. Luke Brooks 8. Aaron Woods 9. Matt McIlwrick 10. Tim Grant 11. Chris Lawrence 12. Elijah Taylor 13. Matthew Eisenhuth 14. Alex Twal 15. Sauaso Sue 16. Michael Chee-Kam 17. Jack Littlejohn