Penrith Panthers NSW Cup v Warriors NSW Cup
Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
Kick-off: 1pm local time, 11am Sydney time
A depleted Penrith Panthers NSW Cup side travels to New Zealand to face the Warriors in a blockbuster top-of-the-table clash.
While the winner will promote their chances of claiming minor premiership honours, the defeated side will slip out of contention with one round to play.
Panthers coach Garth Brennan has been forced into a number of changes - naming young guns Corey Harawira-Naera and Brent Naden in the centres, relegating Chris Smith back to the bench.
Powerful forward James Fisher-Harris starts in the second row after his impressive return from injury in the NYC competition.
"We’ve got a few players out from last week, like Ben Murdoch-Masila as well as Maliko Filino who won’t be travelling to New Zealand because he doesn’t have his passport," Brennan said.
The Panthers are carrying plenty of confidence after Filino claimed a hat trick of tries in a stirring last-minute 20-18 win over the Newtown Jets last weekend. While Filino won’t take his place against the Warriors, Brennan knows the Panthers are capable of a greater performance.
"It’s the last thing we wanted with our injury toll but a few young guys will come up like James Fisher-Harris who played in the 20’s this year,” Brennan said.
"It’s another opportunity for the young kids to put their hand up and there’s no greater challenge to travelling to New Zealand and playing the Warriors."
The Warriors return home after three consecutive road games and are in less-than-convincing form. The Warriors are coming off an indifferent 20-16 win against Wests Tigers, after losing 32-22 to the Bears the previous week. In their other game in Australia, the Warriors grinded out a narrow 30-28 win against the Jets.
The Warriors are a vastly better side at home but the game plan is simple for the Panthers.
"It’s controlling the football," Brennan said.
"It’s about giving them the football where you want them to have it – not where they want it. Kick well and complete your sets.
"If you make some errors against a physical side against the Warriors, they’ll make you pay – there’s no doubt about that."