Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Kick-off: 4pm Sunday
Desperate to keep their finals hopes alive, Penrith Panthers face the daunting task of dethroning defending premiers South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
Penrith’s horror run of injuries continued last week with skipper Peter Wallace ruled out for the season after re-injuring his ACL. Dean Whare is also sidelined with a broken thumb and Nigel Plum misses out after suffering concussion following a sickening head clash with Canberra’s Josh Papalii.
In better news, coach Ivan Cleary is able to recall Kangaroos winger Josh Mansour, which sees youngster Waqa Blake moved to his more natural position in the centres. Isaac John steps up from NSW Cup for Wallace and Sam McKendry is named in the starting side as Api Koroisau takes his place on the bench.
Cleary will be putting the emphasis on a much-improved defensive effort from his side if they are to get anything from Sunday’s clash, after conceding more than 100 points over the past three weeks.
South Sydney coach Michael Maguire has named a full strength side including superstar fullback and captain Greg Inglis, halfback Adam Reynolds and Kiwi international Isaac Luke. Former Panther, Tim Grant, is in the starting side at prop and Kyle Turner is in line to make his NRL comeback from the bench.
Traditionally a high scoring affair, the past twelve fixtures have seen each side victorious on six occasions. South Sydney had won four consecutive matches against Penrith until Round 17 this year, when the Panthers claimed a 20-6 win at Pepper Stadium.
Both sides will be equally as desperate to clinch victory for entirely different reasons and it may hinge on the performances of two of the elite hookers in the game.
James Segeyaro has had a stop-start campaign with injuries limiting his impact but was one of the shining lights for Penrith in a disappointing performance against Canberra. Segeyaro had a hand in Elijah Taylor’s opening try, as well as getting on the scoresheet himself. A line-break, 41 tackles and five offloads capped off his standout performance.
Warriors-bound Luke was equally as instrumental in South Sydney’s crushing 52-6 victory over Newcastle, laying off two try assists and having a hand in two others, while also running for 128m.