What could possibly go wrong for the winless Sea Eagles against the undefeated Penrith powerhouse fresh from a thrilling grand final re-match triumph when the two clubs clash at Lottoland on Thursday night?
The short answer is…plenty.
NRL Sea Eagles vs Panthers Betting Tips
Brookvale Oval, Thursday 1st April 8.05pm (AEDT)
1.Dylan Walker 2.Jason Saab 3. Brad Parker 4. Moses Suli 5. Reuben Garrick 6.Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8.Taniela Paseka 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Martin Taupau 11.Jack Gosiewski 12. John Schuster 13.Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Cade Cust 15. Morgan Boyle 16.Sean Keppie 17. Josh Aloiai 18. Tevita Funa 19. Morgan Harper 20. Toafofoa Sipley 21. Christian Tuipulotu
1.Stephen Crichton 2.Charlie Staines 3.Paul Momirovski 4. Matt Burton 5.Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11.Viliame Kikau 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo. Interchange: 14. Tyrone May 15. Spencer Leniu 16. Matthew Eisenhuth 17. Liam Martin 18. Scott Sorensen 19. Billy Burns 20. J’maine Salmon
The last time these teams met was in August last year when the Panthers purred to a 42-12 win.
Given their respective form lines, it is difficult to see a different result.
Manly had a tough draw to start 2021, coming up against the Roosters and Rabbitohs and were predictably put to the sword.
While the woes of the Broncos and Bulldogs attracted more eyeballs in the opening fortnight, the 38-12 loss to the Dragons dragged the Sea Eagles into the spotlight a little more.
The match-up with St George Illawarra was a genuinely winnable game for the Sea Eagles.
A lot of the stats pointed to them being far more competitive and much closer on the scoreboard but handling errors – Manly completed 25 of 38 sets compared to the Dragons 34 from 39 – cost them dearly.
The Sea Eagles have crossed the white stripe just five times in 2021 while conceding 20 tries. Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran has one try assist and no linebreak assists to his name in 2021 to showcase how their attack has had little or no oomph.
If the Dragons can pile on the pain with 38 points, what will the Panthers do to them? Especially with the rule changes that have sped the game up and put poor teams on the back foot even more.
After three rounds, Manly have conceded 110 points, the Panthers have let 10 points in, and they were all from Melbourne in last Thursday’s cracking contest at Penrith that lived up to the pre-match hype.
This week Nathan Cleary comes back for the Panthers who hung tough for 80 minutes and then some against the reigning premier Storm in a match that highlighted the good teams are very good in 2021 while the bad teams are very bad.
It’s almost like there are three divisions in the competition – the genuine contenders, the mid-table plodders and the wooden spoon battlers.
And this Thursday night, it’s a genuine title contender against a side that will be a cellar-dweller and struggle to finish above the Broncos and Bulldogs.
This is rugby league and miracles can happen. Remember that the Daly Chery-Evans-led 2020 Maroons were supposedly the ‘worst Queensland team ever’ but came away with the Origin shield.
But Cherry-Evans has not got the cattle to engineer another upset.
The Panthers are at prohibitive odds in the range of $1.08 to $1.10 in head-to-head betting while you can get in the vicinity of $7 to $8 for the Eagles.
Penrith should be able to cover the line of -19.5 at the much more friendly odds of $1.90.
Viliame Kikau Tryscorer