Round 7 in the NRL season kicks off on Thursday night with an interesting clash between the top of the table Panthers and the middling Knights. The Panthers start as strong favourites, but will they cover the hefty 16.5 point line? Check out our full preview and betting tips for the clash courtesy of Greg Davis below!
Panthers Stadium, Thursday 22nd April 7.50pm (AEST)
PENRITH: 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. Robert Jennings 20. Apisai Koroisau 21. Dylan Edwards
NEWCASTLE: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2.Starford To’a 3. Enari Tuala 4.Bradman Best 5. Brayden Musgrove 6. Kurt Mann 7. Blake Green 8. David Klemmer 9.Jayden Brailey 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Connor Watson. Interchange: Sauaso Sue 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Josh King 17. Brodie Jones 18. Simi Sasagi 19. Pasami Saulo 20. Gehamat Shibasaki 21. Phoenix Crossland
TWO things will almost be certain in the build-up to this Thursday night’s clash between Penrith and Newcastle.
1) The Panthers will have their swagger back after going into their shell against the Broncos and almost suffering the upset of the century.
2) Knights coach Adam O’Brien will be ordering his entire squad to consume dodgy kebabs before kick-off after superstar Kalyn Ponga played one of the finest matches of his career whilst violently ill to lead Newcastle to a nail-biting win over Cronulla.
Penrith were expected to make very short work of the Broncos last Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium, but a pumped-up Brisbane pushed the undefeated Panthers all the way until Nathan Cleary scored eight points in the last seven minutes to see his side home.
After being on the end of some criticism for their post-try celebrations and general on-field demeanour in the lead-up to the match-up with Brisbane when they were branded arrogant and mug lairs, Penrith did not look themselves.
Sure, the Broncos were fired-up, but the Panthers were unable to harness their considerably greater firepower to put them away. Their attack was clunky, error-riddled and lacked its trademark crispness while defensively they gave up one soft try and too many metres.
The Panthers have given up 38 points in 2021 and 12 of those came against Brisbane.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary is right when he says that league fans did not mind Penrith’s carry-on last year but have turned on them this year. When you win 23 of your last 24 games, that happens.
You become the hunted, not the hunters.
And he and the Panthers should be happy about that because it means that the competition is genuinely wary of what Penrith is capable of at full throttle. Nobody wants to be everybody’s second-favourite team because that means you are not seen as a threat.
The NRL - like any professional sporting competition - is about winning trophies, not friends.
So, after the scare at the old Lang Park, expect the Panthers to get their groove back. The attack should be humming, the defence should be punishing, and the personality should be beaming once again.
But what will the Knights throw up?
Ponga scored two tries, set up two more, kicked three goals, ran for 172 metres and broke eight tackles in Newcastle’s 26-22 win over the Sharks, all while spending part of the match doubled over and vomiting due to illness.
Imagine how well he might go now he is back to 100 per cent?
The Knights have been hit hard by injuries with three-straight losses following their brace of wins to start 2021.
Ponga will have to play out of his skin – again – and will need plenty of his teammates doing the same if they are to seriously challenge the undefeated Panthers who will enjoy being back home at the foot of the Blue Mountains.
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