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While this may seem like an easy win for the Panthers on paper, the Knights have certainly improved during the off-season, and if the Hunter side can stay with Penrith early, this clash could get very interesting.
Despite the Panthers being viewed as premiership favourites at the start of the year and Newcastle tipped to receive a third straight wooden spoon, the reality is that both these sides are 1-2 to start 2017 and come into this showdown on even ground.
Newcastle’s two defeats against the Warriors away from home and then last week to the Rabbitohs were both decided by a try’s margin, meaning they could have easily won all three games.
Penrith meanwhile have also been unlucky, losing last week’s game 14-12 against the Roosters courtesy of a forward pass in the lead-up to the winning try.
With the Panthers falling heavily to the Dragons in their opener and then demolishing the Tigers, which in recent light isn’t as impressive as initially thought, it’s hard to know what we’re going to get from Anthony Griffin’s side.
But what we do know is that this is an absolutely must-win for the Panthers if they are serious about contending for the premiership, especially at home.
We also know the Knights will leave everything out on the field – their intensity, determination and enthusiasm so far this campaign has been admirable. The problem though is when that wavers slightly, they could become easy prey. We’ll see how long it lasts, but the Panthers – with all their talent – shouldn’t be losing this and will likely win comfortably.
Penrith Panthers: 1 Matt Moylan 2 Dean Whare 3 Waqa Blake 4 Tyrone Peachey 21 Dallin Watene Zelezniak 6 Te Maire Martin 7 Nathan Cleary 8 James Tamou 9 Peter Wallace 10 Regan Campbell-Gillard 11 Bryce Cartwright 12 Isaah Yeo 13 Trent Merrin 14 Peta Hiku 15 Leilani Latu 16 Viliame Kikau 17 Sitaleki Akauola 18 Moses Leota 19 Tim Browne 20 Dylan Edwards 22 Corey Harawira
Newcastle Knights: 1 Brendan Elliott 2 Ken Sio 3 Dane Gagai 4 Peter Mata’utia 5 Nathan Ross 6 Brock Lamb 7 Trent Hodkinson 8 Daniel Saifiti 9 Danny Levi 10 Josh Starling 11 Sione Mata’utia 12 Jamie Buhrer 13 Mitchell Barnett 14 Luke Yates 15 Jack Stockwell 16 Sam Stone 17 Jacob Saifiti 18 Jacob Gagan 19 Joe Wardle 20 Josh King 21 Anthony Tupou