It’s not often that teams play other in successive weeks however that’s certainly the case for these two sides who clash on Saturday night.
Manly quite simply smashed the Panthers last week, being both ruthless in defence and sharp in attack on their way to a 28-0 lead after 55 minutes. As they go in unchanged into this weekends elimination final, young gun Brian Kelly will look to replicate his performance from last week, bursting through at speed to score the game’s opening try before playing a crucial hand to lay on two more, acting as solid preparation for the first finals series of his career.
Manly’s dynamic back five are a big reason why they sit third in the league for line breaks and tries in 2017 and with Darcy Lussick getting off his charge at the tribunal on Tuesday night, that will ensure their forward pack – more than capable of producing an offload (Martin Taupau leads league with 71) – will feed their speedy backline.
Penrith’s flimsy defensive line last week will surely be tightened up come Saturday night, however, their wing defence has leaked tries all season long. It was their right side that Kelly was able to expose relentlessly last week, a scary thought considering Matthew Wright and Dylan Walker sit on their more potent left side.
Manly was excellent at shutting down Nathan Cleary’s influence last week and he’ll need more help from Tyrone May this week if they’re to keep their season alive. Their forwards will also need to improve dramatically on last week’s performance, allowing Manly to gain 552m more than themselves in just six more sets. 46 missed tackles certainly didn’t help their cause.
As they say, finals are a different ball game and while Manly’s demolition will still be fresh in the minds of many, it’s a clear slate this weekend.
Cleary has the ability to win a game on his own while Josh Mansour and Tyrone Peachey can break open a game at will. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, James Tamou and Isaah Yeo are the keys for the Panthers to advance past this week as they must put the Sea Eagles on the back foot from the get go. When exposed, Manly can leak points at will as we’ve seen at times this season, something the Panthers will hope they can achieve.
After last weeks encounter, the Sea Eagles will start as favourites although we think the Panthers might be able to right last week’s wrongs and head deeper into September.
Panthers by 4.