Panthers v Dragons preview - 2017 Round 25

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Penrith Panthers v St George Illawarra Dragons Sunday 4:00pm at Panthers Stadium

Panthers push for eight straight as Dragons look to resurrect Top Eight berth

The Panthers continued their push towards September footy last weekend with a thrilling 26-22 defeat of the in-form and desperate Raiders. That victory means that a win this week will officially confirm Penrith's spot in the 2017 Top Eight while it could also see them surge even closer to an unlikely Top Four spot, with the Eels and Sharks both coming up against tough opposition in the Broncos and Roosters this week. Anthony Griffin's men will be brimming with confidence, not only because of their seven-game winning streak but because of the nature of last week's win. Penrith managed to complete an impressive 28 of their 32 sets, resulting in an 88% completion rate. Given that the Panthers were ranked first in errors in the competition going into that match it will certainly be a timely reminder that if you can get the basics right, it goes a long way to securing the two points. However, this week the Panthers will have to do it without skipper Matt Moylan who has suffered a fresh hamstring injury. Luckily, rookie five-eighth Tyrone May has looked the goods in his limited appearances in first grade and his combination with Nathan Cleary will continue to flourish. Hooker Peter Wallace returns from a hand injury in a significant boost for a Penrith line-up otherwise lacking experience in its spine.

Meanwhile, unlike the Panthers, the Dragons started the season in fine fashion yet have collapsed in the back-end of the competition. Their effort, however, was certainly not lacking in last week's gallant defeat at the hands of Brisbane. Despite facing an in-form Broncos outfit and having a number of players in doubt under an injury cloud Paul McGregor's men put up a brave fight, eventually falling 24-12. Yet, the loss now sees the Dragons needing to win this week's contest in order to keep in touch with the Top Eight, with their Round 26 clash against the Bulldogs no longer an absolute certainty if Canterbury rediscover form following their 30-16 win over Manly. Unfortunately, centre Euan Aitken suffered a cruel blow in the final seconds of last week's game after reinjuring his shoulder. Luckily, Nene McDonald returns from injury in his place. However, there is still no Russell Packer, with the barnstorming prop still unavailable with a knee injury.

Last meeting: Round 1 2017 - Dragons 42 Panthers 10

There is no doubt that the Panthers remember their last outing against the Dragons. The Round 1 clash earlier this year pitted the premiership favourites against the Wooden Spoon fancies. Yet, the result did not match this pre-season prediction. The Dragons ran out convincing 42-10 winners and the Panthers will be looking for revenge in front of their own fans who have not forgotten that terrible display.

Who to watch: For the home side, look out for another strong display from fullback Dylan Edwards, who the Panthers are keen to lock up before rival clubs swoop. Edwards was at his metre-eating best last weekend against Canberra, making several decisive breaks after taking testing bombs. Edwards also finished with a line break and try-assist to his name. With his blistering speed, it is only a matter of time before Edwards breaks through the line completely and runs all the way to the try-line.

For the Dragons, they have their own answer to Penrith's Edwards in the form of speedy fullback Matt Dufty. Since debuting, Dufty has impressed with his nifty ability to break the line. Unfortunately, his opportunities were limited last week against a defensively strong Broncos outfit. However, this week, he faces a Penrith side ranked second in the league in missed tackles, averaging 33 per game. Therefore, similarly to Edwards, look out for Dufty to threaten to break through tired defence near the midway mark of Sunday afternoon's game.

The favourite: The Panthers are backed to continue their rich vein of form and make it eight-straight wins on Sunday afternoon.

My tip: This will be a lot closer than many think. The Dragons will be desperate and displayed serious commitment despite last week's score line against Brisbane. However, if Penrith can match Saint George up front they should have enough flair in attack to claim an important yet narrow win. Panthers by 2.

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. James Fisher-Harris 10. Regan Campbell-Gillard 14. Sione Katoa 15. Bryce Cartwright 17. Trent Merrin

1. Matthew Dufty 2. Nene Macdonald 7. Kurt Mann 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 17. Josh McCrone 14. Tariq Sims 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Joel Thompson 13. Jack de Belin 8. Leeson Ah Mau 15. Hame Sele 16. Blake Lawrie 19. Kalifa Faifai Loa

Referees: Gerard Sutton, Ben Cummins; Sideline Officials: Brett Suttor, Michael Wise; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Ben Galea;

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