PREVIEW 🔍 Robert Crosby looks at what to expect in Sunday night's second State of Origin clash.
115 mins ago
Down to the final 4, can Dogs keep season alive against slick Panthers?
Two of the most exciting teams in the NSW Intrust Super Premiership do battle in Sydney's inner west this Sunday as we reach the pointy end of the season.
The third place Panthers have had a very good season and showed in the first week of the finals how devastating it can be with a big win over the Warriors. A host of talented young players that have come through the Panthers under 20's system have combined well with veterans such as Darren Nicholls. They will rely on their ab-lib style of footy to trouble the Bulldogs edge defenders as well as the forwards to dominate through the middle.
The Dogs on the other hand have shown great improvement in 2017 under head coach Steve Georgallis. After barely scraping into the finals last year, Canterbury has shown it to be a force in the Intrust Super Premiership as the likes of Lachlan Lewis, Josh Cleeland and Brad Abbey have excelled. Down by 8-0 against Illawarra last week, the 'Dogs broke through the fatigue barrier to outclass their opponents easily. If they can get an advantage in the play the ball area and give Craig Garvey room to move and manipulate the Panthers forwards then it could be a fruitful afternoon for the Belmore boys.
Last meeting: 2017 Round 13, Canterbury-Bankstown 14 defeated Penrith 4 at ANZ Stadium
The Bulldogs claimed the last victory between the two clubs with a gritty defensive effort. They also won the earlier fixture (18-14) out at St Mary's Stadium. Will it be 3rd time lucky for the Panthers in 2017?
Who to watch: For the Dogs, talented five-eighth Josh Cleeland is the man to focus on. Despite being a slight built, Cleeland is very strong and is dangerous close to the line. This is due to his running ability which has seen him score double digit tries this years and last year, as well as his short kicking game which causes opposition coaches headaches galore. His combination with another young superstar in Lachlan Lewis has been enjoyable to watch and the fate of the Dogs season firmly rests in the hands of these two playmakers.
The Panthers have a lot of good young talent as mentioned above. One of those is fullback Jarome Luai. Playing at fullback after starting the season in the halves, Luai is a ball playing back that has immense strength and speed. He also has really good vision and combines well with his teammates. He has been instrumental in the Panthers success this season and will be wanting another big game as the Panthers push for a grand final appearance.
The Favourite: Panthers slight favourites due to the week off and finishing higher on the ladder.
The Tip: The Bulldogs for mine in this clash. Feeling that they just have the edge mentally, and looked slick against Illawarra. It will be interesting to see how the week off has affected the Panthers. Regardless, should be a wonderful game on Sunday.
Image credit: NSWRL.com.au