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NRL Preview – Sharks v Panthers

During a season which has brought the Sharks seven wins from their last nine matches and eight victories since returning from the COVID break, there is probably one game they would like to play over again, and in a roundabout way they get the chance to do that at Panthers Stadium tomorrow.

Back in round nine and following three consecutive wins, the Sharks came into a game against Penrith riding high on confidence, only to be spanked 56-24 by the Panthers in a match played at Kogarah’s Jubilee Oval.

The Panthers led 26-0 after just 28 minutes, finished the game with almost 60 percent possession, while making 12 line breaks and scoring 10 tries, making the match the biggest black spot on a season which has seen the Sharks battle their way into the top eight with the finals fast approaching.

However rather than forget what took place six weeks ago, the Sharks have rekindled the memory as perhaps extra motivation to show not just the Panthers, but also themselves that they have what it takes to challenge the leading teams.

"For our confidence and belief, it'd be great to knock off at top four team," Coach John Morris said at his weekly media conference. 

"We need to learn some lessons from last time. It was round nine, so it wasn't that long ago but they certainly did a job on us. Everything that did go wrong, could go wrong that day. 

"Hopefully we're smarting from that game, we've learnt our lessons and we'll see a different team tomorrow night," he added. 

While hard to excuse such a heavy defeat, there were some mitigating circumstances around the round nine result, an untried centre/wing combination one of them, others being the fact that Andrew Fifita could only complete 14 minutes of the match, Siosifa Talakai just 15.

This time around, although not fielding a full strength line up with Fifita and Chad Townsend sidelined, the Sharks have Josh Dugan back in his familiar position of left centre, Matt Moylan in on the improve after two weeks back from injury, with Talakai making a significant impact since that night and keen to prove he should have been given more opportunity while a member of the Penrith squad a few years ago.

But despite the fact the incentive to produce an improved performance will be high, the Sharks will need to bring their A-game against a Penrith team which has beaten almost all comers so far this season.

In 14 matches to date the Panthers have won 12, lost just one, with one draw, to stand alone atop the 2020 NRL ladder.

They come into the contest on a club record nine game win streak after sneaking home 18-12 against the Warriors at their last start.

In terms of the head to head match up, in 94 games played between the two clubs who came into the elite NSWRL competition together back in 1967, the Sharks hold a slight advantage having won 51 matches, the Panthers 40, with three draws.

Prior to Penrith winning the past two the Sharks had won 12 of 14 dating back to 2011, while Panthers Stadium has been a happy hunting ground, the Cronulla side taking out five of the past seven before going down 26-20 in round 21 last season.

Through 14 rounds the Sharks are scoring the most tries in the NRL, with Penrith ranked third in that stat category, however in an indication as to why the Panthers sit on top of the NRL table their defense has also been a strength, having conceded the third fewest points and the equal third fewest tries.

The Panthers have won all three matches played at their home venue this season, and nine of their past 10 at home.

As for the Sharks, the win over the Titans made it seven victories from their past nine matches, and it was the fifth time they have cracked the 30 point mark this season.

The Sharks will be aiming for a fifth straight win as the away team, however they are yet to win as the visiting team at a Sydney venue so far this year.

In player stats, Shaun Johnson set up two tries in the win over the Titans, taking his tally to an NRL-leading 20 try-assists for the season, while Sione Katoa scored again last week, making it 13 on the year to sit on top of the competition’s leading try scorer list.

Moylan and Wade Graham are two former Panthers returning to their junior club, Moylan having played 89 matches for Penrith between 2013 and 2017 and Graham making 42 appearances in three seasons from 2008.

Moylan has won all three matches against the Panthers since leaving the club to join the Sharks in 2018, while Graham also has a positive success rate against Penrith, having been on the winning side in eight of his 11 games played.

In team list new, Briton Nikora and Bryson Goodwin come out of the Sharks originally named 19-man squad. 

The Sharks and Panthers match is scheduled to get underway at 6.00pm on Friday night at Panthers Stadium, with the two 19-man squads listed below.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan Edwards
    Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William Kennedy
  • Winger for Panthers is number 2 Josh Mansour
    Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sione Katoa
  • Centre for Panthers is number 3 Tyrone May
    Centre for Sharks is number 3 Josh Dugan
  • Centre for Panthers is number 4 Stephen Crichton
    Centre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse Ramien
  • Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brent Naden
    Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
  • Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome Luai
    Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Matt Moylan
  • Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary
    Halfback for Sharks is number 20 Braydon Trindall

Forwards

  • Prop for Panthers is number 8 James Tamou
    Prop for Sharks is number 10 Aaron Woods
  • Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
    Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
  • Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-Harris
    Prop for Sharks is number 13 Toby Rudolf
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
    2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Siosifa Talakai
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin
    2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham
  • Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo
    Lock for Sharks is number 15 Scott Sorensen

Interchange

  • Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Daine Laurie
    Interchange for Sharks is number 8 Braden Hamlin-Uele
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Spencer Leniu
    Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Connor Tracey
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Moses Leota
    Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Jack Williams
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Zane Tetevano
    Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Royce Hunt