Round 4, 2014 NRL Premiership

Saturday 29th March

Kickoff: 5.30pm

Venue: Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta

Refs: Shayne Hayne & Henry Perenara

It’s the highly anticipated Battle of the West tomorrow at Pirtek Stadium, with the Eels and the Panthers going head to head for the chance to claim early bragging rights in their rugby league backyard.

History shows these two sides have played 102 games against each other over the years, with Parramatta winning 59, Penrith coming away with 42, plus one draw. But in the last three years the Panthers have dominated, winning 5 of their last 6 encounters. So far this year, Penrith are two from three, while the Eels only have one win under their belts and will be desperate to get their second in front of a home crowd.

Last week, the Panthers pushed the Bulldogs to the limit and came away with a two point win thanks to that phenomenal pass by Jamie Soward, an outstanding side step and try from Kevin Naiqama, and then that nailbiting kick from Matt Moylan. But they were far from perfect with a lot of mistakes, penalties, dropped balls and a lacklustre second half, and that’s something Ivan Cleary will be addressing for this weekend.

Parramatta’s game against Manly went down to the wire as well, but it was the Eels who went home a little worse for wear. A Sea Eagles try in the final minute of the game stole victory right from under their noses, leaving the team and their supporters heartbroken. As coach Brad Arthur was heard saying after the siren – ‘close enough is not good enough’.

This week Chris Sandow and Ken Sio have been included in the Eels side after strong performances in the NSW Cup, which it’s hoped will add a little extra spark to an already strong team. On paper, the Eels have a great line up with Jarryd Hayne at fullback, Will Hopoate and Willie Tonga in the centres, Captain Tim Mannah at prop alongside a very strong back line. If these guys can get it together and play the game they’re capable of, they’re going to be tough to beat.

But if the Panthers perform like they did in the first 40 minutes of last Saturday’s match they could outclass the home side and come away with the win. Jamie Soward was instrumental in all of our tries against the Bulldogs, Elijah Taylor was brutal in defence and Kevin Naiqama is settling nicely into the role of the ‘I’ll be wherever you need me to be’ player.

Bash Brothers Nigel Plum and Adam Docker have been living up to their reputation and literally stopped players in their tracks, and it’s winning us a lot of battles up the middle of the park. James Segeyaro who has quickly become a crowd favourite is always on the money with exciting plays and fancy footwork, and not a lot needs to be said about Dean Whare and Dave Simmons who are still an incredibly versatile combo on the wing.

This game will be as much mental as it is physical. The team who has their head straight and a clear game plan will be the one to come away with the two points. Penrith has named a near unchanged line up, with Coach Cleary enjoying his mix of youth and experience, while Parramatta has a few new faces who will have to get acquainted very quickly.