Penrith Panthers v Melbourne Storm
Kick-off 7.35pm Friday
Penrith Panthers will be hoping to return to the winner’s circle this Friday night when they take on Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.
Coach Ivan Cleary has named the same side that went down to Sydney Roosters, with David Simmons retaining his spot on the wing, for now.
The veteran suffered a hamstring injury in the first half of last Saturday’s game and it is still unclear whether he will make the trip to Melbourne.
Api Koroisau continues in the hooker role off the back of his mammoth 55 tackle performance against the Roosters, as James Segeyaro fights his way back from a knee injury.
Fellow tackling machine Elijah Taylor starts alongside young guns Bryce Cartwright and Reagan Campbell-Gillard in the forward pack, with experienced halves duo Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace steering the side around the park.
After a lacklustre performance against the Roosters, Cleary will be hoping his side can rediscover the form that helped them dispense defending premiers South Sydney a week earlier.
Only a top-shelf performance will suffice against a Melbourne outfit keen to snap a four-game losing streak, consolidate their spot in the top eight and celebrate captain Cameron Smith’s 300th game in style.
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has named the same squad that went down 28-14 to the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland last weekend. In the only change to his starting line-up, Tim Glasby comes off the bench at the expense of Felise Kaufusi. Cameron Munster starts at fullback for the injured Billy Slater, and will play a key role alongside Origin stars Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Will Chambers.
Historically speaking the Storm have dominated this fixture, winning 13 from 15 in Melbourne, and losing only once since 2006. The last time these two sides met, in Round 13 this season, the Storm triumphed 20-0 over a decidedly disjointed Panthers outfit at Pepper Stadium.
With both sides looking for a victory to kick-start a run in to the finals, opposing Fijian wingers Marika Koroibete and Waqa Blake could play a pivotal role for their respective teams.
Blessed with tremendous speed, Koroibete has become a key player for the Storm since his mid-season move last year from Wests Tigers. This season he has boosted their cause with nine tries, including two in his past two matches.
He comes up against another Fijian flyer in Blake, who made his debut for Penrith in Round 5 this year, leading to a City Origin call-up just a month later. Boasting a devastating turn of pace, Blake has continued to develop and will be keen to make his mark this Friday.