Penrith Panthers v St George-Illawarra Dragons
Kick-off: 7.45pm Thursday
Penrith Panthers tackle St George-Illawarra hoping to build on their last-start win against the Warriors and dent the Dragons’ chances of playing finals football.
Traveling to WIN Stadium on Thursday night, coach Ivan Cleary has made one change from the side that beat the Warriors, recalling Isaac John to partner Jamie Soward in the halves. Tyrone Peachey shifts to the back row and Apisai Koroisau once again starts in the hooker role ahead of James Segeyaro, who will come off the bench.
It was a return to form for the Panthers last weekend at Pepper Stadium, led by the outstanding Tyrone Peachey, who caused havoc in the Warriors’ defensive line. Named at five-eighth, Peachey made four line breaks and ran for 236 metres, including a try after slipping past two defenders.
Peachey lines up alongside Bryce Cartwright and Elijah Taylor to form an exciting back row that will play a crucial role in determining whether Penrith leave Wollongong with a victory.
Their opponents St George are clinging on to 8th position on the ladder heading into this clash and have received a massive boost with Benji Marshall to make his return. A hamstring injury kept the prodigious playmaker sidelined for the Dragons’ 32-6 loss against Brisbane Broncos last Friday night. Dylan Farrell also returns on the wing in place of Nathan Green, while Penrith-bound Trent Merrin will start at lock.
Penrith have dominated this fixture in recent times, winning the past five encounters between the two sides. The last time they met was at WIN Stadium in Round 22 of last season, which saw the Panthers run out 16-4 winners on the back of a colossal defensive effort.
Points have been hard to come by for both sides this season which makes the battle between the forwards key to deciding the winner. For Penrith, Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been a mainstay in the side since making his debut in Round 1 this season. As for St George-Illawarra, they will be looking for Leeson Ah Mau to make a decisive impact through the middle.
After rising through the youth levels at Penrith, Campbell-Gillard broke through into the first team against Canterbury Bulldogs in the season opener and hasn’t looked back since. His determined performances led to a NSW City Origin call-up during the representative period and he will be on a high after celebrating his first NRL try last weekend.
He will go toe-to-toe against Dragons enforcer Ah Mau, who has been vital to his side this season with his damaging runs and committed defence. Ah Mau has averaged 150m and 32 tackles over the past two months, highlighting the threat he poses at both ends of the park.