Full Time
5:30pm Sat May 25, 2024
Round 12 - PointsBet Stadium, Woolooware / Dharawal - Crowd: 13500

Round 12: Sharks v Panthers preview

The Cronulla Sharks will look to further establish themselves as a genuine contender this Saturday when they host the three-time defending premiers. 

But the absence of Nathan Cleary takes some of the shine off what would have otherwise easily been the game of the week, with the Panthers looking a shadow of their usual selves in a 22-20 loss to the Warriors at Magic Round.

Cronulla, meanwhile, continued to prove its doubters wrong with 38-30 win over the Roosters.

Unsurprisingly, Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon has stuck with the same 17 that got the job done against the Tricolours.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary, meanwhile, has dumped Tyrone Peachey off the bench in favour of Daine Laurie after the veteran utility was badly exposed defending in the centres in last week's loss.

Elsewhere, Luke Garner is out injured and replaced in the starting side by Scott Sorensen with Liam Henry returning from a head knock to bolster the bench.

The Warriors' victory over the Panthers last Sunday snapped an eight-losing streak for the New Zealand-based team against Penrith and Cronulla has a similarly poor recent head-to-head record.

The Sharks have lost six of their last seven games against Penrith, with their only win in that period coming in a 2021 State of Origin-impacted clash, which they won 19-18.

Last meeting: Round 22 2023 - Panthers 28 Sharks 0

Who to watch: With Bradman Best going down injured last week, a spot in the centres has opened up and Jesse Ramien could firmly put himself in the position to capitalize with a strong performance on Saturday. Brisbane will also be without Kotoni Staggs this week, further opening up an opportunity for Ramien to convince Michael Maguire he is the right option.

Regardless of who he is matching up against, Izack Tago has shown himself to be vulnerable defending one-on-one at times this year while Paul Alamoti is part of a new-look edge for Penrith without Taylan May. The opportunity is there for Ramien to take.

As for Penrith, without Nathan Cleary obviously so much of the pressure is on Jarome Luai and, to a lesser extent, Jack Cole to perform. But the foundations of what the Panthers do well remains the same, especially when it comes the metres they get from the back five.

If Penrith is any chance of pulling off the upset this Saturday it will start with the momentum that comes from its start to sets and Brian To'o leads the way in that capacity. The Panthers will need a similar performance to the one To'o had against North Queensland earlier this year, when he had already broke over 10 tackles by halftime.

Favourite: The Sharks are backed to continue their winning ways.

My tip: It is really hard to see the Panthers without Cleary having nearly enough points to challenge a Sharks team that looks to be capable of winning games in lots of different ways this year.

This game could honestly be a tipping point of sorts for Penrith which proves that unless Cleary is healthy in the latter stages of the year, winning a fourth-straight title isn't on the cards. Sharks by 20.