VB NSW Cup Preview - Panthers v Bulldogs

ROUND 3 v Canterbury Bulldogs @ Sportingbet Stadium, Saturday 22nd Mar @ 2:10PM

Pre-season competition favourites, the Penrith Panthers are suddenly in a position where they are desperate for their first win of the season after their shock 30-26 loss to Wyong Roos last round, but their opponents, Canterbury are a side that historically have given the Panthers thru the former feeder team, the Windsor Wolves & will be keen to make it back to back wins this week.

Tale Of The Tape:

In 2013, both teams won a game apiece; the Bulldogs winning at home 32-30 before the Wolves won 30-14 but in the past 7 years its been the Bulldogs who has dominated these clashes having never lost to the Wolves prior to the 30-14 loss last season.

Team Changes:

Both coaches have made changes. Penrith receive a boost with the return of Isaac John in the halves along with NRL debutant Isaah Yeo in the centres. Wes Naiqama also makes a welcome return from injury for his first NSW Cup game of the season as does Anthony Cherrington having served his two-match suspension that resulted from the NSW Cup Grand Final. To round out the changes, exciting back-row prospect Chris Smith gets another chance at this level. However the Panthers have lost Matt Robinson, Daniel Foster & Robert Jennings to injury, while Sakeo Dibeci & Iain Riccardi will play in the Ron Massey Cup this week.

The Panthers team is as follows:

1. DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK 2. EDDIE AIONO 3. TOM EISENHUTH 4. ISAAH YEO 5. WES NAIQAMA 6. WILL SMITH 7. ISAAC JOHN 8. SAM ANDERSON 9. KIERRAN MOSELEY 10. SHAUN SPENCE 11. CHRIS SMITH 12. NATHAN SMITH 13. RYAN SIMPKINS

14. REAGAN CAMPBELL-GILLARD 15. LIAM AYOUB 16. LEILANI LATU 17. ANTHONY CHERRINGTON

COACH: GARTH BRENNAN

For the Bulldogs, their biggest change is to their coaching structure with NYC coach, Andy Patmore replacing Barry Ward as NSW Cup (Barry is now assistant coach to Patmore). The Bulldogs have been boosted by the return of experienced NRL forward Reni Maitua in the back row, in a side that otherwise has a very settled look about it & a backline that is bristling with pace & youthful exuberance with the likes of Lafai, Phillips, Low, Brennan, Templeton & Graham. Their forward pack led by Lloyd Perrett & Lachlan Burr paved the way for a strong second half performance against Manly winning 32-10 after trailing at halftime.

The Bulldogs team is as follows:

1. TYRONE PHILLIPS 2. DRURY LOW 3. ED MURPHY 4. TIM LAFAI 5. KAYNE BRENNAN 6. PAT TEMPLEMAN 7. JALINE GRAHAM 8. LLOYD PERRETT 9. BRAD CLARKE 10. MAKAHESI MAKATOA 11. LACHLAN BURR 12. RENI MAITUA 13. HARLAN ALAALATOA

14. NATHAN MASSEY 15. CHRIS BINGE 16. DAVID MINUTE 17. STEVE AZZI 19. JAMIE STANLEY

20. LINDON MCGRADY 21. LEVI DODD 22. PAT MAFI (Three to be omitted)

COACH: ANDREW PATMORE

Key Match Ups:

Penrith has a more experienced look about their side this week given there are 9 players selected with NRL experience but the Bulldogs have 6 of their own with NRL experience & won't be an easy opponent by any stretch given the contrasting form of both sides.

Nonetheless there are some crucial match ups that will help determine the outcome of this game:

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak v Tyrone Phillips

Dallin has yet to showcase his exceptional talents that have many good judges stating him as the next big thing in the game & really needs to show he belongs at this level after a quiet start to the season. In contrast Tyrone Phillips having moved from South Sydney to the Bulldogs in the off season has started brightly in the NSW Cup & the performance of these two fullbacks may well determine the outcome of this game.

Isaah Yeo v Tim Lafai

The young 19 year old centre from Dubbo impressed everyone with his NRL debut in Round 1 v Newcastle makes a return to NSW Cup this round against a centre on the rise in Tim Lafai who himself is playing his way back into form after a pre-season injury. Two contrasting centres with Yeo's game built around strong defence while Lafai is undoubtedly one of the better attacking centres at this level having played an instrumental role in the Bulldogs upset win against the Wolves last season.

Chris Smith v Reni Maitua

Another player from Garth Brennan's Holden Cup premiership class of 2013 that has already tasted football at this level but gets his first chance for 2014 against the ultra-experienced Reni Maitua, who having representing his country, state & having won an NRL premiership will no doubt be a tough opponent for Smith. Maitua will no doubt have plenty to prove to the Bulldogs faithful that he is worthy of a 2nd stint at the club where it all began for Reni.

The Verdict

No doubt Penrith being second last is the major talking point of the NSW Cup at the moment & it won't be any easier this week playing against the team affectionately known as the "Dogs Of War" who will be keen to make it back to back wins & consolidate their spot in the top 8. The major issue for Penrith has been ball security which in the second half against Wyong last week, proved to be their downfall. The Panthers also need to cope with defending such errors but avoiding the errors in the first place would be preferable.

With the game set to be played in warm conditions again thou whichever team controls possession the best will this game. I think the Panthers can bounce back but by a slim margin in what could be a high scoring affair. Penrith by 2.


BROADCAST INFO

Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM will be live calling the game from SportingBet Stadium from 2PM for a 2:10PM kickoff.

Streaming is available on www.hawkesburyradio.com.au while score updates will be providing on the social media platforms - Facebook - Hawkesbury Radio & Twitter @HawkesburyRadio.

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