PENRITH PANTHERS VS PARRAMATTA EELS
FRIDAY 29TH MAY
The scene is set for another epic Battle of the West showdown at Pepper Stadium on Friday night. Penrith Panthers, buoyed by the return of two big names, are looking to claim western Sydney bragging rights over the struggling Parramatta Eels. The two sides last met in round 12 last season, when the Panthers fired in attack to complete a 26-point demolition job on their fierce rivals.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary welcomes back skipper Peter Wallace and powerhouse winger Josh Mansour from injury, allowing him to name his first-choice halves pairing for only the third time this season. The combination of Wallace and Jamie Soward will add much-needed spark to a Penrith attack which has stuttered at times this season. Unaffected by State of Origin selections, the team is relatively well-rested after enjoying the bye last week. Api Koroisau has been named 18th man.
On the other side of the ledger, Parramatta are propping up the NRL table and have lost their last four games on the trot. They welcome back Will Hopoate from Origin duties, with the resulting backline reshuffle seeing Luke Kelly dropped and Chris Sandow returned to halfback. Peni Terepo and Richie Fa’aoso drop off the bench after picking up injuries against the Rabbitohs – their spots taken Joseph Paulo and Daniel Alvaro.
KEY MATCH UPS
The cool and calm leadership of Peter Wallace goes head-to-head with the unpredictable enigma that is Chris Sandow. The contrasting halfbacks hold the keys in attack for their respective sides. After two months on the sidelines, Wallace will be hoping for a fast return to form while Sandow is out to silence his critics after a questionable performance at fullback for the Eels against Souths.
Panthers star Matt Moylan is in the sights of state selectors after spending the week embedded in the NSW Origin camp. The youngster will need his full bag of tricks to outwit the Eels’ wily Reece Robinson, who returns to fullback this week. The former Raider has a knack for hitting the gaps in attack and finding the tryline on a regular basis.
Veteran Eels forward Anthony Watmough missed out on Origin selection after struggling for form in 2015. Now approaching his 300th game milestone, ‘Choc’ will be desperate to re-establish himself as one of the hardest men in the NRL. The epitome of the tireless workhorse, Panthers lock Elijah Taylor regularly tops the team’s tackle count and is crucial to Penrith’s defence holding firm through the middle.
PENRITH PANTHERS | Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Waqa Blake, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, David Simmons, Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace, Nigel Plum, James Segeyaro, Sam McKendry, Lewis Brown, Isaah Yeo, Elijah Taylor.
INTERCHANGE | Bryce Cartwright, Jeremy Latimore, Sika Manu, Reagan Campbell-Gillard