It’s last against first like Western Tigers host the Panthers of Penrith at the CommBank Stadium during the 18th round of the NRL. Rejoin the roar for live scores and commentary from 2:00 p.m. AEST.
After 16 games apiece, there’s a chasm between the No. 1 Panthers and the No. 16 Tigers. Penrith are 24 points clear of the Wests entering tonight and their point differential is 88 more than the total number of points the Wests have scored this season.
Since Round 18 last year, Penrith have won 24 and lost three, won a premiership, managed to get more local juniors through to first year and appear to be slipping further away from the pitch.
In the same span, Wests won five and lost 18, missed the final, fired another coach and walked away from the margins of contention.
But that chasm might not be as wide or deep tonight. Penrith took the opportunity to rest their seven Origin players, while Wests are full.
The Panthers replaced their Origin stars with Robert Jennings and Charlie Staines in the back row, Kurt Falls and Sean O’Sullivan in halftime, Mitch Kenny at hooker and Chris Smith and Matt Eisenhuth in the back row.
For Wests, James Roberts returns in the crosses with Adam Doueihi passing in five-eights and Jackson Hastings to lock. Despite another disappointing performance against Parramatta, Luke Brooks retained his place in the halves.
Youngster Justin Matamua will make his first NRL start at second tier with Luke Garner dropping to the bench. Skipper James Tamou was benched after missing the last two games, with Stefano Utoikamanu dropped.
On paper, Wests should at least be competitive tonight and, remember, they beat an understaffed Penrith side in the Origin period last year.
But since then, Penrith has demonstrated that the machine rolls even with makeshift coins in key positions. The Wests have shown so little over the past two months and there’s no reason to think they have the discipline or resilience to beat the Panthers.
Penrith by 8.
1. Daine Laurie 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Starford To’a 4. James Roberts 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Adam Doueihi 7. Luke Brooks 8. Joe Ofahengaue 9. Fa’amanu Brown 10. Zane Musgrove 11. Justin Matamua 12. Kelma Tuilagi 13. Jackson Hastings 14. Fonua Pole 15. James Tamou 16. Luke Garner 17. Jake Simpkin 18. Austin Dias 19. Jock Madden 20. Junior Tupou 21. Asu Kepaoa 22. Alex Seyfarth
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Taylan May 3. Izack Tago 4. Robert Jennings 5. Charlie Staines 6. Kurt Falls 7. Sean O’Sullivan 8. Moses Leota 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Chris Smith 13. Matt Eisenhuth 14. Soni Luke 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Jaeman Salmon 18. Sunia Turuva 19. J’maine Hopgood 20. Lindsay Smith 21. Thomas Jenkins 22. Christian Crichton