Panthers v Raiders preview

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Penrith Panthers v Canberra Raiders Saturday 7:35pm at Panthers Stadium

First Position Panthers take on Raiders with top four on the radar 

The Penrith Panthers and Canberra Raiders play on Saturday night at Panthers Stadium in the most anticipated game of the round. Keeping top spot on the premiership ladder is quite possibly on the line for Penrith, with Canberra looking to break into the ever important top four before the end of the regular season. With Canberra getting a few troops back last weekend in the form of John Bateman for example, they will only improve from here and it will be interesting to see if they can take down the competition leaders. Penrith were outstanding last week and Nathan Cleary seems to be getting better with each performance, stamping his claim on the NSW Origin jersey at the end of the season.  
In team news for Penrith, young speedster Charlie Staines has been ruled out with a hamstring injury and will be replaced by Malakai Watene-Zelezniak on the wing. Other than that forced change made by coach Ivan Cleary, the Panthers are unchanged following their dominant 12-42 win over the Sea Eagles at Brookvale last weekend.  
The Raiders welcome back Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad at fullback for this game, which sees Jordan Rapana go back to the wing. This change also means rookie winger Semi Valemei is out of the side. Other than that welcomed addition to their side, Ricky Stuart has not made any further changes to the side that narrowly beat the Cowboys 12-14 in their last game. 

Last meeting: Round 19 2019 - Panthers 18 Raiders 30

Who to watch: It's hard to go past looking out for Nathan Cleary in this game. Last week against Manly, he took complete control of the game and looks to be growing more and more with each performance. The Raiders will have to look to contain the Penrith forwards and cut down Cleary's time with the ball. If they aren't able to do that, look for Cleary to take a similar hold on the game as he did against the Sea Eagles in Penrith's last game.  

Jack Wighton will face his NSW teammate in Cleary in this game and the better performer of the two will play a large part in their team winning. Wighton has no doubt stepped up even further since the injury of Josh Hodgson and look for his strong running game to cause issues for the Panthers defence off the back of some strong running from the likes of Josh Papalii and John Bateman.  

The favourite: With the Panthers leading the competition, they are slight favourites to win this game.

My tip: Penrith have been very good of recent and especially in their last game. The Raiders have welcomed back John Bateman recently and Corey Harawira-Naera has also been brought to the club. The Raiders should start to significantly improve and I think it will start in this game, which should be a tight one. Raiders by 4.

1. Caleb Aekins 2. Josh Mansour 14. Tyrone May 4. Stephen Crichton 3. Brent Naden 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 15. Spencer Leniu 16. Moses Leota 17. Zane Tetevano 21. Daine Laurie

1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Jordan Rapana 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Curtis Scott 5. Nick Cotric 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papali'i 9. Siliva Havili 10. Dunamis Lui 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Hudson Young 14. Tom Starling 15. Joseph Tapine 16. Ryan Sutton 17. Corey Harawira-Naera

Referees: Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials: Chris Butler, Todd Smith; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Bryan Norrie;

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