Pressure continues to mount for the Panthers after last week's loss to the Sharks.
Everything was going to plan for Ivan Cleary when Penrith built a 20-6 lead and seemingly answered Cronulla's challenge early in the second half.
But the wheels fell off and the Sharks made the Panthers pay with three converted tries in the final 17 minutes.
It doesn't get any easier on Friday night against the Rabbitohs.
Souths are well placed with a 5-1 record but the truth is they haven't played well since the opening two rounds and are just doing enough to get by.
Panthers: Penrith will start the match 1-17. Jarome Luai and Kaide Ellis were the two players dropped from the squad an hour before kick-off. Dylan Edwards is set for another week in the Canterbury Cup after being relegated from the reserves list 24 hours before kick-off. Tyrell Fuimaono was the other player cut on Thursday. Penrith have won three of their past four games against the Rabbitohs at Panthers Stadium.
Rabbitohs: In a late change that has been used in recent weeks Junior Tatola will start the match with George Burgess moving back to the interchange bench. Other than the positional switch, Souths are 1-17. After Connor Tracey and Dean Britt were omitted on Thursday evening, Bayley Sironen and Mawene Hiroti were left out an hour before kick-off. Souths captain Sam Burgess has scored four tries in his past four games against the Panthers.
No doubt the opposing halves will have a big say on the result, but let's go with rising star Cameron Murray up against Panthers lock James Fisher-Harris. Murray has been touted as a future Origin rep, while JFH is one of the main cogs in Ivan Cleary's engine room.
For the Panthers to win
It used to be that they needed faster starts, but after blowing leads to the Titans and Sharks over the past fortnight, the Panthers clearly need to toughen up mentally and start being more adept at sticking to the game plan and closing teams out in crunch time.
For the Rabbitohs to win
The Bunnies had such a strong defensive focus last week against the Bulldogs that they had little juice in the tank to attack. What else could explain their inability to score a single point over the final 55 minutes of the game? The Dogs deserved credit but the Rabbitohs need to get their offence firing on all cylinders on Friday.
Brett Kimmorley says
Penrith were great last week but then they found the most amazing way of losing a game of football. Confidence can come and go extremely quickly. Penrith need to grind out a tough win – but I can’t pinpoint an individual who can do it for them. Souths haven’t been great, but they’re not beating themselves at the moment. They have high completion rates, a great kicking game and then just wait for their opponents to lose it for them. Rabbitohs by 4
The Rabbitohs are on top in six of the NRL's main statistical team categories, including supports, line engaged, decoy runs, run metres, runs and receipts. However they are also among the worst offenders for in ineffective tackles (120). The Panthers have a couple of issues of their own, leading the competition in errors and penalties.
And another thing ...
Ah the weekly highs and lows of rugby league. It was barely two weeks ago that Nathan Cleary booted the Panthers to a stirring come-from-behind victory over the Wests Tigers. Since then the Panthers have lost to the Titans and Sharks - two bottom eight teams - and Cleary has to be more consistent if he wants to retain his place in the NSW Origin team.