Penrith Panthers NYC v New Zealand Warriors NYC
Kick-off 3.15pm Saturday
The table-topping Penrith Panthers NYC side hosts New Zealand Warriors at Pepper Stadium on Saturday with plans to consolidate their ladder position as the finals approach.
Coach Cameron Ciraldo has been forced into one change to the side that comfortably saw off Parramatta Eels 36-12 at Ringrose Park last weekend. Prop Paea Pua is promoted to the starting side for Stanton Albert, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury against the Eels, while Sam Elwin returns to action via the bench.
James Fisher-Harris is named in the back row after his successful return from injury against Parramatta. The Junior Kiwi was at his barnstorming best in his first hit-out back from injury, running for a whopping 220 metres and making eight offloads as he caused havoc on the right edge. His running game was much too strong for the Eels defence, constantly finding space for his outside men to capitalise on.
Fisher-Harris will line up alongside fellow enforcers Pua and Moses Leota, forming an intimidating pack, complemented by Tyrone May providing a touch of class from the lock position.
The young Panthers will have to be at their best however as the Warriors, currently sixth on the table, also boast a strong forward pack. Backrowers Matiu Love-Henry and Ofahiki Ogden have been damaging in the Holden Cup competition, combining for an impressive 16 tries this season.
Alongside fellow forwards Bunty Afoa and Jazz Tevaga, the forwards battle promises to be a bruising duel that will go a long way to deciding the winner of the match.
The Warriors come into this weekend off the back of some patchy form, winning two of their past five matches after a bye. The losses have seen them drop out of the top four in recent weeks and placed them in some danger of missing out on the finals altogether.
The young Panthers are flying, however, having won seven straight and are hoping to continue that streak with the Cowboys hot on their heels, still just one point behind on the ladder.