Penrith v South Sydney preview

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Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs Friday 8:05pm at Suncorp Stadium

It was Penrith's most complete performance of the season. 

Now all these months later the troops are starting to return and the Panthers will be hoping to rediscover the same ruthless edge that saw them run out 56-12 winners over the Rabbitohs. 

Everything clicked for Penrith on that afternoon but since then Origin and injuries have taken their toll. 

It has proven to be far from crippling for the Panthers, who have dropped just the three games since but even their wins have been unconvincing at times. 

Meanwhile, Melbourne has just continued to strengthen its premiership credentials. 

The return of Nathan Cleary had an instant impact in a 34-16 win over the Dragons last week but even still an error-riddled start would have proven costly against a better opponent. 

Both James Fisher-Harris and Tevita Pangai Jr have been named on the extended bench and could be a late inclusion. 
Apisai Koroisau and Kurt Capewell though both return from suspension in a timely boost.

With the Rabbitohs and Panthers favoured to win both of their remaining games this blockbuster will likely decide second and third spot on the ladder. 

That will not mean much anyway given the lack of home ground advantage but it will be a big psychological advantage for Souths in particular.

Wayne Bennett did not utter a single word in the dressing sheds after the Rabbitohs' 44-point loss to the Panthers earlier this year.

With it he sent a clear message that certainly got through with the Bunnies undefeated since that point. 

In saying that, wins over the Eels, Tigers, Bulldogs and Warriors were overshadowed by defensive lapses that cast serious doubts over South Sydney's premiership credentials.

The past three weeks have gone a long way to addressing those concerns, with the Rabbitohs conceding just six tries in victories over the Dragons, Eels and Titans. 

A win over the Panthers would certainly see Souths command the respect they deserve and the returns of Alex Johnston, Campbell Graham and Dane Gagai will help.

Last meeting: Round 11 2021 - Rabbitohs 12 Panthers 56

Who to watch: Jarome Luai looked more at home last week against the Dragons with Cleary back alongside him. The Panthers playmaker grew up playing a lot of No. 7 in the juniors but did not look entirely comfortable steering the team around without his Blues halves partner. The extra responsibility is something Luai is certainly prepared to shoulder but it does not suit his natural ability. With Cleary back in the frame though and Koroisau also returning this is the chance for Luai to shake off his form slump and be the creative spark Penrith need. 

Speaking of creative sparks, Cody Walker has been in some form for Souths. Even in that 56-12 thumping Walker was easily South Sydney's biggest attacking threat, finishing with a try, 131 run metres and eight tackle breaks. Melbourne may sit on the top of the ladder but the Panthers still boast the best defensive record in the league. Walker easily tops the league for both try assists and linebreak assists and shapes as the obvious man to break down Penrith's defensive systems. Of course, he will need help as the two teams' last meeting proved. 

The favourite: Penrith is slight favourites here.

My tip: If Pangai Jr and Fisher Harris are late inclusions the advantage tips in Penrith's favour. At the moment though given their inclusions and current form it is hard to go past a South Sydney side with a bit more to prove. South Sydney by 6.

1. Dylan Edwards 2. Stephen Crichton 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Matt Burton 5. Brent Naden 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Matthew Eisenhuth 17. Kurt Capewell 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 11. Viliame Kikau 14. Mitch Kenny 15. Scott Sorensen 19. Tevita Pangai Junior 18. Izack Tago

1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Dane Gagai 4. Campbell Graham 5. Josh Mansour 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Mark Nicholls 9. Damien Cook 16. Tevita Tatola 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray 10. Thomas Burgess 14. Benji Marshall 15. Jacob Host 17. Hame Sele 20. Blake Taaffe

Referees: Grant Atkins; Sideline Officials: Liam Kennedy, Chris Butler; Video Referees: Henry Perenara;

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