RESULTS: 2021 Betfred Championship Round 10
7 hours ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Upset of the millennium? Unlikely.
Under more merciful circumstances Saturday's match-up between the unbeaten Penrith Panthers and the last-placed Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs would be called off.
Looking to become the first team since South Sydney in 1925 to open a season with 12 consecutive wins, the Penrith Panthers have stood above all else so far this season with a brand of football equally exhilarating in attack and defence.
Shaming the Rabbitohs into the category of premiership pretenders with a blistering 56-12 assault in Dubbo last Sunday, coach Ivan Cleary will be expecting no mercy from his players as they look to continue a strong 75 per cent record against the Bulldogs over their past eight meetings.
Ranked first in defence, post-contact metres, tackle breaks and second in attack and line breaks, the Panthers also hold the distinction of the fewest missed tackles over the first 11 rounds.
Resisting the temptation to rest a host of stars in the lead up to the opening Origin encounter, front-rower Moses Leota returns from a shoulder complaint, allowing Liam Martin to shift into his preferred second-row position after Kurt Capewell accepted a one-match ban for a crusher tackle.
Managing one win over the opening 11 rounds to rank as the worst side to wear the blue and white in the professional era, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will need divine intervention to stand a chance of pulling off an upset as $21.00 outsiders.
Showing courage only to falter at the death during last week's 30-20 loss to the Titans, coach Trent Barrett will be hoping his side can defy recent history on the lands of the Darug People following two wins from their past eight visits.
Holding the ignominy of the worst attack, defence, line breaks and tackle breaks, the few stats the Bulldogs thrive in - completion rates and errors - reveal an irrefutable truth that Trent Barrett - the man praised for invigorating Penrith's attack last year - has yet to deliver on expectations in his second coming as a head coach.
Welcoming back inspiration skipper Josh Jackson and impulsive front-rower Jack Hetherington from injury and suspension respectively, Jackson Topine will start at hooker, while Joe Stimson comes onto the bench in place of Corey Waddell.
Last meeting: Round 2 2021 - Bulldogs 0 Panthers 28
Who to watch: Enjoying a breakout year on the left wing after making his name on the opposite side of the field, Brian To'o will be looking to make a final push on Saturday afternoon in his bid to earn a State of Origin debut. Leading the league in tackle breaks, running metres and post-contact metres, the 22-year-old pocket rocket may not have the height of other wingers, but what he lacks in size he more than compensates for with power and work rate. Contracted to the Panthers until the end of 2023, expect the Samoan international to be unrelenting in his bid to add a different shade of blue to his jersey collection.
In a team that has struggled to be competitive for a number of seasons, Nick Meaney has become a mainstay of the Bulldogs' backline. Willing with the ball in hand and capable of playing several positions, the 23-year-old has reached an intriguing juncture as a first-grader where a move away from Belmore may be in the best interests of advancing his career. Out of contract at the end of the year, look for Meaney to continue offering a rare attacking spark in the hopes of earning a deal at a club where losing hasn't become the norm.
The favourite: There's short-priced favourites and then there's this - for perhaps the first time in NRL history the Panthers are paying $1.01 to come away with two premiership points on Saturday afternoon.
My tip: Every single Canterbury player could play beyond their potential and it wouldn't matter - the Panthers have so much confidence at the moment that they have made a mockery of the very concept of a two-horse race. Penrith by 36.
1. Stephen Crichton 2. Charlie Staines 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Matt Burton 5. Brian To'o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Tyrone May 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Matthew Eisenhuth 17. Spencer Leniu 21. Izack Tago
1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Nick Cotric 3. Will Hopoate 4. Aaron Schoupp 5. Nick Meaney 6. Brandon Wakeham 7. Jake Averillo 8. Jack Hetherington 14. Bradley Deitz 10. Luke Thompson 11. Adam Elliott 12. Matt Doorey 13. Josh Jackson 9. Jackson Topine 15. Joe Stimson 16. Dylan Napa 17. Ava Seumanufagai 20. Corey Waddell
Referees: Matt Noyen; Sideline Officials: Mark Bohan, Jon Stone; Video Referees: Alan Shortall;