NEW columnist and rugby league boff Kaine Greenwood (@RetroPress) makes his WLB debut with a selection from Thursday morning’s NRL action.
Penrith Panthers v Canterbury Bulldogs | Thursday 09.05 | Premier Sports
The first home hit-out of the season, surrounded by the mountains, against last year's beaten semi-finalists. That sounds like just the kind of thing those of us who don't play the game would love to experience, although I'm not sure Penrith will share that feeling as the Bulldogs roll into town.
It's only Round 2 of the NRL season and there are a few people who could be forgiven for getting hot under the collar at the prospects of the Panthers improving on their W9-D0-L15 record of 2015, not least because the sweltering conditions that faced their visit to the capital, in a loss to the Raiders last week, look set to follow them home to Pepper Stadium.
Conditions in Canberra were roundly criticised as no in-game breaks were taken despite what winger Josh Mansour described as “the toughest game I've played in, in terms of conditions“.
Added to this, the western Sydney-based side came out of the game with a significant personnel loss – instrumental hooker James Segeyaro suffered a broken arm, likely to see him miss something closing in on eight weeks of action.
Anybody who watches the fast-and-loose style you see from the Panthers will recognise how big a loss this could prove to be but they also look set to be without star full-back Matt Moylan and key defensive centre Dean Whare for this week at least.
That kind of star quality is sure to be difficult replace, both physically and mentally, in the 30-plus degree heat set to beam down on the mountain setting, drinks or no drinks.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, looked close to the form that took them deep into the competition in '15, as they took apart Manly last week, and will head to the suburbs of Sydney confident of producing a similar result despite the loss of hooker Michael Lichaa in the opening round.
The stats say this one could be close with both sides sharing a 2-2 record over the last four meetings and Penrith holding the visitors off in the last few home fixtures. Matt Moylan nailed a touchline conversion to seal a 18-16 victory in 2014 while Round 1 last term (perhaps close to last time the Panthers had a fully-fit first-choice spine to field) saw a six-point margin of victory for the hosts.
As much as coach Anthony Griffin will hope the qualities of one-time Super League import Jamie Soward and talented fill-in Tyrone Peachey can produce a repeat, he will probably also take an injury-free week above all else!
The Panthers are only set for one on-field practice on this six-day turnaround and it's asking a lot for everything to fall right for any kind of repeat this year.
As you can probably tell, my confidence lies in Canterbury having the thirst and, more importantly, quality in the likes of winger Curtis Rona – a tempting 4/5 with Bet365 to score at anytime – to maintain their 100% record into Round 3.
Paddy Power is giving us the chance to back a Canterbury win by at least a converted try at even-money and that looks more than possible here so lets give it a whirl!
Penrith Panthers v Canterbury Bulldogs – Canterbury Bulldogs -5.5 handicap (1/1 Paddy Power)
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