Can the Panthers keep their winning roll going?
Penrith’s finals chances were almost written off after going 2-7 through the opening nine rounds, however, since then they have won seven of nine to sit just one win outside the top eight.
They go into the game with a fair bit of confidence after knocking off the Titans 24-16 at Pepper Stadium which was the first of four straight matches at home.
Conversely, Canterbury’s season just hasn’t got going at all and they are all but gone now as a finals contender after suffering a 42-12 loss at the hands of Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.
PRESSURE PAYS OFF
PENRITH’s recent hat-trick of wins has been built off the back of pressure.
Halves Matt Moylan and Nathan Cleary have been patient when given the opportunity to attack an opponent’s line with the pressure eventually paying dividends.
They did that well against Manly in Round 18 and then finally overwhelmed the Warriors in the second half two weeks ago.
Last week against the Gold Coast they were tackled inside the Titans’ 20 metre zone on 39 occasions compared to the visitor’s nine. Despite their dominance in possession and territory, Penrith only managed to get home by eight points.
A win is a win, yes, but if they harbor ambitions of qualifying for the finals they need to put teams away to not only get the win but to increase their For and Against which is currently 53 behind the Dragons in eighth spot.
LAST ROLL OF THE DICE
CANTERBURY have probably been one of the most disappointing sides of 2017.
This was never more evident than last week. With their season on the line, they began the first 20 minutes against Brisbane well and were on top, however, crumbled in the final hour.
They dished up rubbish to eventually lose by 30 points. In the wash up, coach Des Hasler fronted a board meeting earlier this week and five-eighth Josh Reynolds was pulled up for a drunken incident over the weekend.
The last time a similar scenario unfolded was back in Round 13 after the Panthers put 38 on them. A bonding session just days later led to the Bulldogs pulling off one of their best performances of the season beating Stgeorge Illawarra (14-2).
On face value you wouldn’t think they can win this but the form is there to suggest they can lift when under extreme pressure off the field.
PENRITH has had the better of the doggies in their last few outings.
The latest of those was back in Round 13 where the Panthers won 38-nil while the time before that was in last year’s Qualifying Final. On that occasion, Penrith wore their opposition down slowly but never really looked in any danger of defeat before winning 28-12.
Matches played at Pepper Stadium haven’t been overly kind to the Bulldogs either in recent times, with just two wins since 2009.
Penrith has everything to play for and won’t slip up against a side they know they can beat.
Some Bulldogs players have publicly come out and said they can still make the finals but if that were to happen, they would need to win six straight matches and still need results to go their way. Considering the most they have won in a row is three in 2017, and they’ve only done that once, we can’t see it happening.
Matt Moylan is in a bit of doubt thanks to a hamstring concern from last week so keep an eye on the team lists closer to kick-off for his availability.
We expect the Bulldogs to come out firing and with their defence still putting them in the top half of the NRL in that stat (seventh, 18.94ppg), Penrith may struggle to break them down.
Honestly, the $1.47 (@ Betfair) about Penrith probably isn’t as appealing as the $3.05 @ Unibet for the Dogs, however, from what we have seen from the boys from Belmore it is really hard to get enthusiastic about their chances.
Maybe the Canterbury / Penrith half-full double is the way to go for value players if you think all the happenings off the field will inspire the Bulldogs to at least begin brightly in the first 40 minutes.
CANTERBURY / PENRITH HALF-FULL DOUBLE