Championship SQUADS - 2021 Playoffs Week 1
72 mins ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Two underachieving sides meet in critical clash for their chances of playing finals footy
The Panthers enter this week's clash with Canberra off the back of three straight wins, including last week's 38-0 shutout of the Bulldogs. Having overcome heavy half-time deficits in their previous two victories, coach Anthony Griffin would have been elated with his side's dominant 80-minute performance in last week's win. Matt Moylan's move to five-eighth proved, as many predicted, a masterstroke, with the Penrith captain scoring a try, setting up another and registering two line-breaks in an impressive outing. Mitch Rein also made the most of his opportunity filling in for the injured Peter Wallace, scoring two tries and providing excellent service. He will be given another chance to impress this week with Wallace given another week to recover. However, Penrith's three-game winning streak has consisted of victories against the struggling Warriors, Knights and Bulldogs. Therefore, in order to truly prove themselves as a force this year, the Panthers must step up against the tougher opponents they face. This week's clash against Canberra could provide their fans with a greater understanding of how their team is travelling as both sides are fairly evenly matched and sit on 12 points, one win outside the eight.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have not been in the best form, despite having won two straight before last week's Golden Point loss to Manly. Their previous wins over the Roosters and Eels were not as convincing as coach Ricky Stuart would have hoped. Prior to that, they suffered disappointing losses at the hands of the Knights and Bulldogs. Yet, back onto last week's defeat, a 61% completion rate proved Canberra's downfall. With the attacking weapons that they possess, one would think that if the Raiders can hold onto the ball, they can threaten Penrith's defence. However, after trailing 20-6 at half time and being reduced to a 15-man bench, one would not have blamed Stuart's men for a more comprehensive loss. Stuart will hope his side can maintain this determination as they will come into the clash with Penrith minus forwards Shannon Boyd and Dunamis Lui.
Last meeting: Semi Finals 2016 - Raiders 22 Panthers 12
The Raiders ended Penrith's season with a 22-12 win in the Semi-Finals last year at GIO Stadium.
Who to watch: The match-up between the men in the No. 2 jersey is worth the admission price alone. Last week, Josh Mansour made an incredible comeback from an ACL injury suffered in last year's Four Nation's tour. Even more astounding was his performance - 212 running metres, a try, try-assist, seven tackle busts and a line break. And that was just his first game back. A truly outstanding effort and the scary thing is that Mansour can only improve from here.
However, he faces no easy task this week lining up against the in-form Jordan Rapana. Rapana is the kind of player who can single-handedly win his side a game - and he almost did just that last week. Rapana ran for a whopping 243 metres, scored two tries, set up another, broke the line three times and made seven tackle busts. Mansour faces a serious test this week in the form of containing the energetic Rapana.
The favourite: The rejuvenated Panthers are slight favourites here.
My tip: If Penrith can win the battle up front against a weakened Canberra pack, Matt Moylan and Nathan Cleary should be able to guide the home side to an important victory. Panthers by 7
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Dean Whare 4. Waqa Blake 5. Dallin Watene Zelezniak 6. Matt Moylan 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Mitch Rein 10. Regan Campbell-Gillard 11. Corey Harawira 12. Isaah Yeo 13. Trent Merrin 14. Tyrone Peachey 15. Leilani Latu 16. Tim Browne 17. Viliame Kikau
1. Jack Wighton 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Junior Paulo 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Iosia Soliola 11. Josh Papalii 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Luke Bateman 15. Royce Hunt 16. Clay Priest 17. Joseph Tapine 21. Kurt Baptiste
Referees: Henry Perenara, Chris James; Sideline Officials: Rohan Best, Tim Roby; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Bryan Norrie;