Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Penrith Panthers will be looking to post back-to-back wins when they play host to defending premiers South Sydney Rabbitohs at Pepper Stadium on Friday night.
Coach Ivan Cleary has named an unchanged 18-man squad from the one that dismantled Wests Tigers 35-12 at Leichhardt Oval last Sunday.
While the short turn-around isn’t ideal, the Panthers will hope the continuity helps them to again deliver the positive, attacking football they demonstrated in the second half against the Tigers.
For the first time in a number of weeks, Penrith’s attack looked devastatingly sharp, with Dean Whare and David Simmons in particular finding space, timing and tries down the right edge.
Panthers hooker Api Koroisau, stepping up in place of the injured James Segeyaro, was also impressive and will hope to repeat the dose against his former teammates.
Still on the cusp of the competition’s top eight, the Panthers need the two points on Friday to boost their hopes of playing finals football in 2015.
History doesn’t bode well for the home side though – they haven’t beaten the Rabbitohs since 2011. The last time the two sides met, in round six last season, Souths came away with a comfortable 18-2 victory.
While the Panthers are unaffected by State of Origin call-ups, the Rabbitohs lose superstar custodian Greg Inglis.
Souths speedster Alex Johnston takes over at fullback and Joel Reddy comes onto the wing. Key playmaker Adam Reynolds has recovered from a head knock he suffered in the Rabbitohs’ last-start win against Manly and takes his place in the side.
In what looks to be a potentially decisive match-up, Kiwi international Whare goes head-to-head with Dylan Walker. Both centres are genuine match-winners on their day.
Whare will be boosted by his return to top form against in the Tigers, playing a leading role in three of Simmons’ slick tries.
Walker, who made his international debut for the Kangaroos in the 2014 Four Nations, will be out to prove the NSW selectors erred in overlooking the 20-year-old for this year’s Origin series.