Full Time
7:55pm Fri July 1, 2022
Round 16 - BlueBet Stadium, Penrith - Crowd: 16725

Round 16: Panthers v Roosters preview

Reckoning arrives for rebuilding Roosters

Friday night shapes as a pivotal game for two teams in contrasting form as the league leading Penrith Panthers play host to the out of form Sydney Roosters at the foot of the mountains.

Thriving atop the premiership ladder four points clear of their nearest rivals, the Penrith Panthers will be determined to extend their recent run of dominance over the Tricolours to six straight matches.

Recording a comprehensive victory over the Warriors in their most recent NRL fixture, coach Ivan Cleary has stuck solid with the same squad that prevailed 40-6 in Redcliffe, featuring 14 players involved in last weekend's round of representative matches.

The match will serve as a club milestone for co-captain Isaah Yeo, who will move into outright tenth on the list of first grade appearances for the Panthers. The 27-year-old forward will surpass Trent Waterhouse with his 187th appearance for the club and, barring injury, will reach 200 NRL games in the early rounds of next season.

Interchange hooker Mitch Kenny will play his 50th game for the club, while Matthew Eisenhuth could bring up 100 NRL appearances if elevated from the extended squad into the final team.

Sitting outside the top eight midway through a season for the first time since their calamitous 2016 campaign, the Sydney Roosters will be desperate to break a three match losing run with a major scalp.

Winning three of eight visits to Penrith during Trent Robinson's tenure - the last of which occurred in 2017 - the Roosters will once again be without Luke Keary with Sam Walker named to start at halfback alongside Drew Hutchison at five-eighth.

In a major boost to the side's hopes of causing an upset, Victor Radley will return for the first time since Magic Round, while Connor Watson will make his 50th appearance for the club.

Facing a difficult run home with just three matches against teams currently ranked outside the top eight, the side will need to emulate the feats of the last Roosters team in 2010 to qualify for the finals from outside the top eight following Origin II.

Last meeting: Round 11 2022 - Roosters 12 Panthers 32

Who to watch: Emerging as one of the breakout stars of the 2022 season, Penrith powerhouse Taylan May will be eager to continue his try-scoring prowess on Friday evening. Sitting alongside Alex Johnston as the league's equal leading try-scorer with 14 four-pointers, the 20-year-old Minichinbury Jets junior has averaged 167 running metres each week, while producing 61 tackle breaks and 12 line breaks, since gaining his opportunity earlier in the season. Debuting against the Roosters in the closing rounds of the home-and-away season last year, May proved equally as potent on the representative stage last weekend with a brace in his representative debut for Samoa.

Enjoying a rapid rise with nine tries in ten appearances this season, Joseph Suaalii has provided the Roosters with a sorely needed point of difference in attack. Cementing a place on the right wing after beginning the year in reserve grade, the 18-year-old star junior has shown glimpses of athleticism not seen since the emergence of Israel Folau at a similar age. Viewed as a representative player of the future after being included in the extended NSW squad during the series, the Roosters will need Suaalii to deliver if they hope to pull off an upset.

The favourite: Returning home in high spirits and even better form, Penrith have been installed as the shortest-priced favourites of the round.

My tip: For as brilliant as individual players within the Roosters ranks may be, the collective brilliance of the Panthers will be too much to overcome on the night. Panthers by 14.