The Penrith Panthers cling to the top of the VB NSW Cup table despite dealing with a multitude of weekly line-up changes as they prepare to take on the in-form Canterbury Bulldogs.
The Panthers suffered a heart-breaking last-minute 22-20 defeat against the Wyong Roos following another deflating 19-18 loss in Round 16 against the same team.
“We’re competing hard and Wyong’s a tough team to beat - that’s all I can ask for at the moment,” Panthers coach Garth Brennan said. “We’re really down on troops. The guys coming in are doing a great job.
“The Roos aren’t easy beats - they’re one of the top teams in the VB NSW Cup. To lose by one and two points - it’s a pleasing result with the amount of players out.”
The Panthers will be determined to keep their place atop the ladder but face a Bulldogs side that has won five of their seven past matches to climb into fifth place and threaten for a top-four finish to the season.
Brennan points out that the Bulldogs have benefitted from fielding a similar side each week after fulfilling first-grade duties. “It helps when you get some regular quality players back in the team to play week-in week-out,” Brennan said. “I’ve seen their side hasn’t changed a lot over the past few weeks so that helps. They’re a quality side featuring some really good players on the team with NRL experience.
“We’re under no illusion - it’s going to be very tough again this week with another bunch of young kids making their debuts. I’m sure they’ll hold the gloves up well and compete hard again.”
It’s the ideal opportunity for the Bulldogs to announce their premiership credentials as the Panthers reassert themselves as the competition’s team to beat.
Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday 18 July, 3:00pm
BULLDOGS: 1 JALINE GRAHAM 2 TYRONE PHILLIPS 3 CHASE STANLEY 4 JACOB LOKO 5 COREY THOMPSON 6 MATT FRAWLEY 7 DANE CHISHOLM 8 ANTONIO KAUFUSI 9 DAMIEN COOK 10 DANNY FUALALO 11 DAVID MINUTE 12 ADAM ELLIOTT 13 LLOYD PERRETT 14 LEVI DODD 15 MAKAHESI MAKATOA 16 HERMAN ESE’ESE 17 JASON SCHIRNACK 19 BRAD CLARK COACH ANDREW PATMORE
PANTHERS: 1 ADRIAN DAVIS 2 EDDIE AIONO 3 ROBERT JENNINGS 4 CHRIS SMITH 5 MALAKAI WATENE-ZELEZNIAK 6 ISAAC JOHN 7 WILL SMITH 8 MATT EISENHUTH 9 SIONE KATOA 10 LEILANI LATU 11 BRENDAN ATTWOOD 12 BEN MURDOCH- MASILA 13 TUPOU SOPOAGA 14 ANDY SAUNDERS 15 STANLEY WAQA 16 MALIKO FALINO 17 DANIEL FOSTER 19 SAM HOLLIS COACH GARTH BRENNAN
This article first appeared on NSWRL.com.au