Roosters v Panthers preview

Embed from Getty Images
Sydney Roosters v Penrith Panthers Saturday 7:35pm at Sydney Cricket Ground

Penrith Panthers - with their finals hopes dangled on a string - head to the SCG graveyard to take on rampaging Sydney Roosters.

The whole knockdown and rebuild of the Sydney Football Stadium has been a mess, but one side that has benefitted (beside a handful of construction firms) is the Sydney Roosters. The Bondi side has averaged 37 points per game at the famous venue, which has them set up to be the first side since 1992-93 to go back-to-back in a fully-fledged first grade competition.

Trent Robinson has been the master of keeping his side focused for several years now - and 2019 has been no different. Despite racking up some heavy scores, he has found slight frayed edges to improve on. Headed into the final fortnight of the season with second spot sewn up - games against Penrith then South Sydney make good markers to smooth the edges further.

Points at the cricket ground usually refers to the fielding positions, but if the Roosters are on song, the scoreboard will start to roll quicker than a dry outfield at the Moore Park venue as the Roosters administer another SCG thrashing.

Down at the foot of the mountains, the mood is much more somber. Back-to-back losses from their Queensland road trip has them on the outside looking in to the top eight. The licorice all sorts boys need to produce another display like Round 13 - when they managed to get one over the reigning premiers - to keep their slim hopes alive.

Big picture - 2019 has been an exercise in frustration for the Panthers. An inconsistent start was forgotten in the whirlwind of a seven-game winning streak which had them firmly in the top eight. Since then, it has been a return to that inconsistency as now, another year might be wasted by the Panthers.

One lone, bright spark for the visitors - that upset win back in Round 13 which was in the middle of their win streak. To do that, they'll need to score 20+. Penrith has only achieved that three times this season and only managed 19 in the aforementioned upset - they will need Cleary and Maloney to fire to keep the flame alive.

Last meeting: Round 13 2019 - Panthers 19 Roosters 10

Who to watch: For the Roosters, it is about health headed into the finals. Les Tricolours are locked into second spot and now get ready to go back-to-back. Considering their omnious record at the SCG - it will be the James Tedesco show again. The fullback leads the NRL in line-breaks and might extend his lead against the Panthers.

After their mid-season revival, the Panthers are circling the drain. Their attack has looked messier than a teenager's bedroom and needs a quick remedy. That comes down to Nathan Cleary and James Maloney reigniting their fire from the win streak and get the Panthers putting on points. Possibly even repeating the dose from their victory in Round 13. 

The favourite: Roosters, duh.

My tip: It's at the SCG. The Roosters have racked up cricket scores at the oval-shaped venue and should do similar against a Penrith side almost out of the finals equation. Roosters by 30.

1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 25. Drew Hutchison 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Sam Verrills 10. Isaac Liu 11. Angus Crichton 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Victor Radley 14. Lindsay Collins 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Nat Butcher 17. Siosiua Taukeiaho

1. Dylan Edwards 2. Stephen Crichton 3. Dean Whare 4. Brent Naden 5. Brian To'o 6. James Maloney 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 19. Sione Katoa 10. Moses Leota 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. James Fisher-Harris 15. Spencer Leniu 16. William Burns 17. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 18. Wayde Egan

Referees: Henry Perenara, Jon Stone; Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis, Michael Wise; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Bryan Norrie;

Follow all the action LIVE in our Match Centre