Facing the leading two teams in as many weeks the NSW Cup Sharks successfully completed their first assignment last weekend and will look to take a second big scalp in as many weeks when they play the competition leading Panthers in Bathurst on Saturday.
The Sharks prevailed 40-36 in a point-scoring shootout against the second-placed Wentworthville last Sunday, however against the formidable Penrith side will need an improved defensive performance if they hope to achieve the double.
A strong backline is sure to make the Sharks more than competitive, while the forwards will be given the task of containing their opposition in a game which should provide a gauge as to the Sharks chances of defending their NSW Cup title.
The match is set down for Carrington Park in Bathurst, with the kickoff at 12.40pm.
NSWRL.com has provided its weekly match preview.
Summary: The good people of Bathurst will be in for a footballing treat when the ladder leading Panthers, looking to bounce back from their first loss in some three months, take on an ever dangerous Sharks side at Carrington Park.
Cronulla showed last week that they have the offensive firepower to match it with any side in the competition, home or away, as they dropped 40 on Wentworthville.
With outside backs like Nathan Gardner, Justin O’Neill, Travis Robinson and Kurt Mann currently at Tony Herman’s disposal, the Sharks are beginning to loom as a side that no one is going to want to face come finals time. The Panthers would not have been impressed by the fashion in which they lost last week’s match.
Undoubtedly Garth Brennan would have read the riot act to his troop’s midweek, as no side should really ever surrender a 24 point lead with even less minutes remaining on the clock.
In some good news for the Panthers, both Dave Simmons and Ben Murdoch-Masila return from injury for this one, with Simmons in particular, looking for a big game in search of a return to first grade in the near future.
Both Tupou Sopoaga and Matt Prior have not been named here for Cronulla but may yet play if not required in first grade, while Kurt Mann comes into the side for Young Tonumaipea who looks set to travel to Brisbane with the Storm.
Cool Kumul: Hopefully someone down in the shire has tipped off Mark Mexico as to the expectant weather that he is likely to face when the Sharks team bus pulls into Bathurst later this week. Given that Mexico has lived and played in the humidity and high temperatures of PNG for most of his life, it is probably unlikely that he has ever played a match in the conditions that he is set to face on Saturday.
The Bureau of Meteorology predicts a top of 13 degrees on Saturday with a possible shower, however if the breeze picks up, this expected top may be optimistic at best.
If he thought moving to Sydney was a change of pace, let’s see how he handles the cool clean air out west.
Prediction: Look for the Panthers to bounce back and atone for a round eight loss to Cronulla. Panthers by 6 (result predicted by NSWRL).
Penrith Panthers Vs Cronulla Sharks
Carrington Park, Bathurst, Saturday, July 26
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ