Penrith v Wests Tigers preview

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Penrith Panthers v Wests Tigers Sunday 4:05pm at Moreton Daily Stadium

The Penrith Panthers are after revenge after the Wests Tigers became the first team to beat them earlier in the season.

Ivan Cleary will be determined to come home with the two points after their tough loss earlier in the season at Leichhardt Oval, where the Tigers fans let Ivan know what they really think about him. However, this time around, the Tigers are effectively out of the finals race (barring a miracle) whilst the Panthers will aim to lock up a top two spot along with building some momentum as they head into the finals series.

Penrith were without their Origin stars in the last outing between these sides but this time the Panthers will field a much stronger team which includes the likes of Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and both Brian To'o and James Fisher-Harris who return after spending some time on the sidelines for various reasons. The Panthers have clearly been one of the top two sides this season and they'll want to make that apparent especially after the Sharks dropped 50 points against the Tigers over the weekend. They've had plenty of success against the Tigers over the past few years, having won seven of the last nine outings between the two sides.

The key for the Panthers will be to get points on the board early and put the Tigers on the backfoot. Although the Tigers' defence have shown it's easy to score 20 points in quick time when playing the joint venture. The Panthers have scored 606 points (4th most in the league) and the Tigers have conceded 646 points (4th most in the league) and as a result you wouldn't be wrong to think that the Panthers are going to pile on the points against the Tigers this weekend. As previously mentioned, the Panthers will be welcoming back both To'o and Fisher-Harris at the expense of Matt Eisenhuth and Brent Naden.

On the other hand, Michael Maguire will be filthy with his side's capitulation on the weekend which effectively ended their season. Defence as been a big issue for the Tigers throughout this season and for the past few years and it once again on full show as the Sharks put 50 points past the joint venture. It was a season defying game, yet the Tigers failed to get up for the fixture and given they've essentially got nothing to play for this weekend, will that result in an uninterested Tigers side or a side that wants to give their fans something to cheer about?

Most likely, the Tigers will be licking their wounds by Monday morning, but they did manage to get under the skin of the Panthers when they faced each other earlier in the season albeit against a weakened Panthers side. If the Tigers are able to get under the skin of the Panthers, they could force them into handing the game over to the Tigers, however, very unlikely. Another issue for the Tigers is the omission of Adam Doueihi, arguably the Tigers' best this season, as he nurses a knee injury. This will allow Jock Madden to make his second NRL appearance of his career in the number six jersey. The Tigers will welcome both Thomas Mikaele and Jacob Liddle back into the fold, which pushes Joe Ofahengaue and Jake Simpkin to the interchange. Alex Seyfarth is another who will return from injury, taking up a spot on the bench as Tuki Simpkins, Billy Walters and Kelma Tuilagi are left out of the side.

Last meeting: Round 13 2021 - Wests Tigers 26 Panthers 6

Who to watch: The battle of the halfbacks could decide the fixture and given the form of Nathan Cleary this season it could easily be another dominant performance from the New South Wales half. But, if the Tigers are to come away as victors you'd assume that Luke Brooks would have play a major role in the win. The Tigers halfback has improved on his performances from last season and has accumulated 16 try assists over his 22 appearances this season. Brooks is also responsible for 12 forced drop outs and averages 101 run metres per game. Brooks' running game will have to be on fire over the weekend if the Tigers are to get close to winning this fixture. His opposite number in Cleary has had a fantastic season and doesn't look like slowing down. In his 14 appearances this season, Cleary has scored nine tries, assisted 15 and forced 18 dropouts. Clearly a player you don't want anywhere near your own try line. Cleary has also averaged a career high 113 run metres per game and averages another career high in kick metres per game with 532. He's going to be hard to stop and given his performances this season, you'd expect him to lap this Tigers side up.

The favourite: The Panthers are easily the favourites for this match and rightfully so after losing just three games over the course of the season. The Tigers did knock off the Panthers earlier in the year, although it was a weakened Penrith side without their Origin stars. The Tigers have also failed to win any games against the sides in the top six bar the Penrith victory.

My tip: The Panthers should get home comfortably and if they're looking to build some momentum as they head into December, they'll look to dismantle this Tigers side. Penrith by 22.

1. Dylan Edwards 2. Stephen Crichton 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 17. Liam Martin 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo 11. Viliame Kikau 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Tevita Pangai Junior 20. Tyrone May 18. Izack Tago

1. Moses Mbye 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Tommy Talau 4. Michael Chee-Kam 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Jock Madden 7. Luke Brooks 8. Thomas Mikaele 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Stefano Utoikamanu 11. Shawn Blore 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Alex Twal 14. Joe Ofahengaue 15. Jake Simpkin 16. Tom Amone 17. Alex Seyfarth 21. Zac Cini

Referees: Matt Cecchin; Sideline Officials: Liam Kennedy, Jon Stone; Video Referees: Ashley Klein;

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