Round 6 Preview: Panthers v Titans

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Penrith Panthers vs Gold Coast Titans.
Venue: Panthers Stadium.
Date: Sunday, April 15th.
Time: 2:00pm.

Panthers: 1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Isaah Yeo, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Christian Crichton, 6 Tyrone Peachey, 7 James Maloney, 8 Trent Merrin, 9 Peter Wallace (c), 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Corey Harawira-Naera, 13 James Fisher-Harris

Interchange: 14 Wayde Egan, 15 Kaide Ellis, 16 Moses Leota, 17 James Tamou

Reserves: 18 Jarome Luai, 19 Nick Tui-Toso, 20 Sione Katoa, 21 Jack Hetherington

Titans: 1 Michael Gordon, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Dale Copley, 4 Konrad Hurrell, 5 Phillip Sami, 6 Kane Elgey, 7 Ashley Taylor, 8 Jarrod Wallace, 9 Nathan Peats, 10 Max King, 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Will Matthews, 13 Jai Arrow

Interchange: 14 Mitch Rein, 15 Morgan Boyle, 16 Bryce Cartwright, 17 Jack Stockwell

Reserves: 18 Leilani Latu, 19 Keegan Hipgrave, 20 Ryan Simpkins, 21 Tyronne Roberts-Davis

Game Preview.
This is my pick for game of the round. We have the top 4 Penrith Panthers without Nathan Cleary taking on a surprise package in the Gold Coast Titans. Oh I’m excited for this one!

The Penrith Panthers have been a surprise to many without Nathan Cleary. Since losing him, we saw James Maloney produce one of the best performances in his career to help his team take down the Cowboys in North Queensland. The Panthers followed that performance up with a close fought battle against the Parramatta Eels. They haven’t been anything fantastic, but Maloney has stood up immensely to guide the Cleary-less Panthers around the park, and on top of that, the forward pack has been incredibly resilient. Despite the loss of Cleary the Panthers remain firmly in the top 4, and will be hoping to continue that today.

Standing in the Panthers way however is the Gold Coast Titans. One of the harder teams to tip this year. Can’t say the Titans haven’t been good, as their only two losses have come at the hands of the undefeated Dragons and undefeated Warriors. The negative side to this is that neither loss was overly good. The Warriors loss was close enough, however an absolute demolishing at the hands of the Dragons doesn’t help, and it’s put a nasty dent in their point differential. Plus no team has ever won a premiership when conceding 50 points or more in a game that season, and the Titans did that with the Dragons game. Usually I would agree with this stat, but surprisingly the Titans have been pretty good outside of their losses. They had a hard fought win over the Broncos, and then a huge win against Manly. 

This game I can see go either way, and it’s hard to actually predict this result. Without Cleary, a lot of pressure sits on the shoulders of James Maloney, pretty much meaning that the Panthers only hope in my belief is if Maloney has a good game. Lucky for them, Maloney is that type of player to lift to the pressure. 

The Titans have an absolute blessing being able to take the Panthers on now. Their focus will mainly be on disrupting Maloney. The young halves will need to step up and really control this game for the Titans, and if they can do that along with disrupting Maloney enough, the Titans should win this. However the pressure for the Titans is on their forwards. They have been brilliant some weeks, and very poor in other weeks. We will have to see who stands up for these two teams.

Key Match Ups.

Match Up #1: James Maloney vs Ash Taylor.

This match up will be the make or break for either team in my opinion. James Maloney has a lot of pressure on him to carry the Panthers. He did that perfectly against the Cowboys and once again against the Eels, but the question is, can he continue to carry the pressure until Nathan Cleary is back. He seems to be in complete control of the Panthers attack, and it’ll come down to this man.

Ash Taylor is by far one of the best young halves in the game. He’s been pretty solid throughout 2018, some excellent performances and some not so brilliant games. He will be taking on a master of the game, and if the Titans wish to win this game, Taylor will need to be on his best game. It’s not so much his attack that’ll be relied on, but more so his game management, and he’s got to really control the game better than Maloney in this case.

Match Up #2: James Fisher-Harris vs Jai Arrow.

Oh boy is this a match up of the elite up and comers. James Fisher-Harris has been quite the performer for the Panthers lately. Off the back of a brilliant performance last week, Fisher-Harris isn’t here for the work and stats, he’s here for the aggression. He’s not always the best forward in the game, but he’s by far one of the better attitude changers. His aggression has been huge, and his ability to lift his team is enormous.In the opposite #13 jersey is one of the best forwards in 2018 so far. Jai Arrow has been an absolute machine! Last week alone saw him rack up 2 tries and 10 tackle breaks! He alone is carrying that Titans forward pack on his back. It’s not that his co forwards aren’t helping out, it’s the effort Arrow makes in everything he does that stands out, and it’s standing out alright!

Match Up #3: Michael Gordon vs Dylan Edwards.

Another master vs apprentice story. An old Panthers prodigy in himself taking on the young gun from Penrith. Michael Gordon hasn’t been anything sensational, but he’s done his job right! He’s been consistent in defence and is quite the leader in terms of leading his team around. He’s a much needed old head in a young squad.

Dylan Edwards is finally the long term fullback the Panthers have been looking for. The young #1 blew the NRL away in 2017 with his blistering pace and agility. Edwards has been as much of an attacking weapon as he was in 2017, but he’s still one of the best young fullbacks out, and a big game from him will change things dramatically on the scoreboard.

Stonecold’s Prediction: Titans by 14.
This is a very hard game to predict, but I can’t go past the Titans. Their past fortnight has been exceptional and against a Panthers team without Nathan Cleary, I’m not sure if James Maloney can completely carry the game on his shoulders. The overall team effort for the Titans will get them home.



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