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7:55pm Fri June 3, 2022
Round 13 - BlueBet Stadium, Penrith - Crowd: 16906

Round 13: Panthers v Bulldogs preview

Young guns look to go from cubs to Panthers

A fresh-faced Penrith Panthers outfit will be hoping to continue a strong record in Origin-affected fixtures by downing the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at the foot of the mountains on Friday evening.

Coming into the representative season atop the premiership ladder with a single loss from their opening 12 matches, the Penrith Panthers will have their depth tested with six players unavailable through Origin.

Fielding a vastly different line up from the side that humbled the Cowboys during last Friday's 22-0 shutout at home, coach Ivan Cleary has placed his faith in reserve grade halves pairing Sean O'Sullivan and debutant Kurt Falls to get the job done in the NRL.

Robert Jennings, Charlie Staines, Chris Smith and Matthew Eisenhuth are among the other new faces promoted from reserve grade, while talented forward Spencer Leniu will make his 50th appearance for the club off the bench.

The Panthers have won seven of their past nine matches during Origin-affected rounds; the side suffered a 20-point loss to the Tigers at Leichhardt Oval in the lead up to Origin I last season.

Sitting at the opposite end of the premiership spectrum in 16th position with a paltry two wins over the first half of the season, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be looking to capitalise on their depleted opponents.

Unaffected by Origin representation, alongside the Tigers and Warriors, interim coach Mick Potter will have the benefit of Josh Addo-Carr at his disposal after the star winger was overlooked in the biggest selection shock of the series.

Raymond Faitala-Mariner will start in the second row ahead of Corey Waddell, while Ava Seumanufagai replaces Joe Stimson on the bench in the only personnel change from the team that went down 34-24 to the Dragons last Sunday.

Last enjoying the spoils of victory over the Panthers prior to the pandemic, the Bulldogs have managed one win from their past six visits to Penrith; captain Josh Jackson is the only current player remaining from the side that triumphed at the Mulgoa Road precinct in the early rounds of 2016.

The Bulldogs hold an underwhelming record in Origin-affected fixtures with six wins from 15 matches; the side's last win in the lead up to Origin came at Belmore Oval five years ago.

Last meeting: Round 5 2022 - Bulldogs 12 Panthers 32

Who to watch: Carrying enormous responsibility as a relative veteran in a side full of emerging players, Dylan Edwards will be looking to draw upon his own strides since coming into first grade during the Origin period. Handed a debut prior to Game III six years ago, the 26-year-old fullback has grown to become one of the game's most reliable players with the most run metres so far this season. Leading the league in runs, kick-return metres and boasting the most post-contact metres of any outside back, the Panthers will need Edwards to be heavily involved to compensate for the absence of Cleary, Yeo and Luai.

Returning to Penrith for the first time since his highly touted move to Canterbury-Bankstown, Matt Burton will be aiming to mastermind an upset over his former teammates. Starting at five-eighth in every game this season after thriving in the centres during the Panthers premiership-winning campaign, the 22-year-old has been especially potent with the boot, producing 11 forced drop-outs, five try assists and the fourth highest kicking metres in the league. Regarded as one of the most promising young players in the league, look for Burton to be heavily involved as the Bulldogs fight to get off the bottom of the premiership ladder.

The favourite: Even without half a dozen of their best players, the Panthers are expected to claim five consecutive wins over the Bulldogs for the first time in history.

My tip: While the Panthers were found wanting without their representative stars in the corresponding fixture last season, the systems in place at the foot of the mountains should be too much for the cellar dwellers to overcome. Panthers by 16.