Penrith Panthers v Sydney Roosters
Kick-off 5.30pm Saturday
Boosted by back-to-back wins, Penrith Panthers appear a rejuvenated side ahead of their clash with Sydney Roosters at Pepper Stadium on Saturday.
Coach Ivan Cleary has been afforded the rare luxury of naming an unchanged line-up from the one which claimed an upset 20-6 win over defending premiers South Sydney Rabbitohs last Friday.
Penrith’s attack has turned a corner in previous weeks, coinciding with the return of New Zealand international Dean Whare. The fleet-footed centre was instrumental in David Simmons’ four-try haul against Wests Tigers and claimed a try for himself against South Sydney.
Bryce Cartwright has led the way for the forwards, earning many admirers with his performance last Friday night, running for over 200 metres and causing havoc with his signature offloads. His ability to draw the attention of multiple defenders has begun to open up consistent space for the Panthers outside backs to exploit.
Manly-bound hooker Api Koroisau has been impressive while filling in for the injured James Segeyaro, while Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace are again named in the halves.
Cleary will be hoping for a repeat of the energy and commitment on display last Friday as the race for a spot in the finals heats up. A win will potentially elevate the Panthers back into the top eight.
However Penrith’s opponents Sydney Roosters are coming off a bye and are in a rich vein of form themselves, posting three successive wins and sitting third on the ladder.
The Roosters have also named an unchanged line-up following their last-start win over Gold Coast Titans. Coach Trent Robinson has picked his Origin stars in former Panther Michael Jennings, as well as Boyd Cordner, Mitchell Pearce and Aidan Guerra, to back up from Wednesday night’s encounter.
History suggests a tough fixture for the Panthers, with the Roosters winning four of the past five matches between the two teams. In their most recent clash, in Round 3 this season, the boys from the Eastern Suburbs claimed a 20-12 win.
But of course Penrith fans will happily reflect on the Panthers’ memorable one-point victory in the 2014 finals series.
In what promises to be a tough game, the result could hinge on a moment of magic from each side’s Kiwi fullback.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has grown in to the role left vacant by the injured Matt Moylan, producing his best performance to date against South Sydney and getting on the scoresheet in the process.
He will match up against Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who has become one of the competition’s standout fullbacks after taking over from the retired Anthony Minichiello this season. RTS currently leads the competition in runs made and metres gained, with his speed and footwork terrorising opposition defences.