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Penrith Panthers v Newcastle Knights Saturday 3:00pm at Carrington Park, Bathurst

Penrith and Newcastle battle it out to go 3 from 3

Bathurst's Carrington Park will host a 1st v 2nd clash for the first time when the undefeated reigning premiers Penrith meet the Newcastle Knights this Saturday. The Penrith Panthers have been taking a home game out to Carrington Park every year since 2014 (with the exception of 2020), and have built a strong supporter base in the city. The 3pm afternoon kick-off should bring with it a packed crowd hoping to see their team go 3 from 3 to start the season.

Penrith will be feeling quite lucky to still be undefeated this season after they were held to zero in the second half last week against a spirited Dragons side. While they managed to hold on, it shows that they aren't just going to have their wins handed to them. A first half double from 100 gamer Viliame Kikau put Penrith on top early, and despite a late test they can hold their heads high after a very strong start to the season, especially without their star halfback Nathan Cleary.

Penrith will be hoping that this is their last game without their halfback until the Origin period at least, with Nathan Cleary expected to return in Round 4. Sean O'Sullivan has proved to be quite a handy signing over these first few rounds. In the off season there were worries that Ivan Cleary's side would lack depth with the loss of Matt Burton to the Bulldogs, but so far these seem to be unfounded.

This weekend though will be a further test of the Panthers depth, with a number of injury concerns coming out of their clash with the Red V. Winger Brian To'o suffered a knee injury 8 minutes into the second half, with scans revealing that he has suffered an MCL injury, and will be out for between 6-8 weeks. His spot has been taken by Taylan May, while James Fisher-Harris has been named despite suffering muscular damage to his left shoulder last time out.

The Newcastle Knights continued their dream start to their 2022 campaign, with a dominant win over a dreadful Tigers side. After losing Mitchell Pearce over the off-season, and with star hooker and co-captain Jayden Brailey out for an extended period of time, the Newcastle spine have performed admirably under a lot of pressure during the opening rounds of the season.

Their performance was made even more impressive by the late scratching of fullback Kalyn Ponga. Tex Hoy slotted straight back into their backline after filling in for Ponga for a number of games in 2021. Nevertheless, Knight's fans will be glad that Ponga has been named to start at fullback this weekend.

Daniel Saifiti returns from injury and takes his spot in the front row. Mitch Barnett shifts to the second row to fill the void that the injured Lachlan Fitzgibbon leaves.

It will be the Knights first trip to Bathurst for an NRL game.

Last meeting: Round 7 2021 - Panthers 24 Knights 6

Who to watch: Penrith junior Sean O'Sullivan finds himself back at the foot of the mountains after leaving the club at the end of the 2016 after winning the SG Ball Cup as captain. Making his NRL debut at the Roosters in 2018, he then travelled north to Brisbane for 2019 and 2020, and then across the ditch to the Warriors for a breakout 2021 season in which he played 12 games at NRL level. O'Sullivan was signed to ensure depth in the halves for Penrith after the loss of Matt Burton, and his performance at halfback this weekend is vital.

Young outside back Dominic Young has found some form in the early rounds of 2022 with Newcastle. After making his Super League debut in 2019 for the Huddersfield Giants he signed a three year deal with the Knights that started in 2021. He made his NRL debut in round 3 of last year, and has scored a try in both games so far this year. He will be out to prove that he deserves his spot in the 13 with outside back Hymel Hunt expected to return from injury for Newcastle next week.

The favourite: Penrith Panthers are the strong favourites to go three from three to start the 2022 season.

My tip: Despite Newcastle's undoubtedly strong start to the season, the reigning premiers will be too good in Bathurst this Saturday. Penrith by 10.

1. Dylan Edwards 2. Charlie Staines 3. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Taylan May 6. Jarome Luai 7. Sean O'Sullivan 8. Matt Eisenhuth 9. Apisai Koroisau 16. Spencer Leniu 11. Viliame Kikau 19. Chris Smith 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Mitch Kenny 15. Scott Sorensen 17. Jaeman Salmon 18. J'maine Hopgood 21. Lindsay Smith

19. Tex Hoy 2. Dominic Young 3. Dane Gagai 4. Bradman Best 5. Enari Tuala 6. Jake Clifford 7. Adam Clune 8. Jacob Saifiti 9. Chris Randall 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Kurt Mann 14. Phoenix Crossland 15. Jirah Momoisea 16. Leo Thompson 17. Mathew Croker 18. Simi Sasagi

Referees: Peter Gough; Sideline Officials: Drew Oultram, Nick Beashel; Video Referees: Alan Shortall;

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