Penrith Panthers NYC v New Zealand Warriors NYC
Kick-off 5.15pm Friday
With a spot in the Grand Final up for grabs, the Penrith Panthers NYC side tackles reigning premiers New Zealand Warriors at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
Cameron Ciraldo has been forced in to reshuffling his side from the one that beat Manly two weeks ago, with a number of absentees due to injury, suspension and representative duty.
Halfback Nathan Cleary is away with the Australian Schoolboys team, which sees Tyrone May slot in to five-eighth alongside Jarome Luai, who will start at halfback. Christian Crichton misses out through injury and is replaced by Fuimanu Enese on the wing, while prop Oliver Clarke returns from a collarbone injury that saw him miss the qualifying final win a fortnight ago. The other big name missing from the teamlist is Sione Katoa, who copped a two-week ban for a shoulder charge against Manly.
Despite losing a number of key players, Penrith’s confidence will be high. The young guns have won ten of their past eleven matches, including a victory over Friday night’s opponents along the way.
Without key playmaker Cleary, the versatile May will be hoping to put in a big performance alongside halves partner Luai. May has featured in nearly every position this season having started as a fullback, stepping up in the halves, filling in at centre and eventually making the lock position his own in recent weeks. While the Panthers will miss Cleary’s kicking game, May’s ability with the ball in hand and his strong running game will pose a major threat to the Warriors.
After finishing the regular season in seventh, the Warriors reached the preliminary final by dispatching a highly talented Broncos outfit 45-10. Imposing centre Semisi Tyrell scored a hat-trick while the Kiwi forwards used their superior size and speed to dominate the battle of the packs.
Tyrell, along with boom fullback Brad Abbey and Tomasi Aoake, pose a major threat to a Panthers side that boasts the best defence in the NYC this season.
Bulldogs-bound Abbey has crossed the try line on ten occasions this season, to add to Tyrell’s tally of twelve and Aoake’s tally of eighteen, to headline an impressive Warriors backline.
The Panthers were victorious in the only meeting between the two sides this season just over a month ago, winning 36-28 at Pepper Stadium. It was an entertaining affair that saw the lead change multiple times before skipper Brent Naden sealed the victory with a try at the death.