Panthers v Raiders preview

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Were the Panthers ‘over confident’ going into last weekend’s game against the Storm?

Or were Melbourne, who were looking down the barrel of six straight losses, determined not to lose against a side coming second last?

Penrith Panthers forward Tim Grant said this to me before the Storm game last week: “I’m 100 per cent confident (we’ll beat the Storm), we’ve got them at the best time I think. People say they’re looking for a win but we’re coming off two wins and they’re coming off five losses – I know where I’d rather be”.

Somewhere along the line, it all went wrong.

Whether it was diabolical defence, poor options in attack or both, the Panthers will need to stick to their game plan this weekend, when they face the high-flying Canberra Raiders at Centrebet Stadium.

The Raiders would have to be one of the NRL’s most inconsistent sides – one week they are looking like grand finalists and the next, a park footy team.

The Raiders do have in their favour one of the most electrifying and youthful backlines in the competition. Players like Josh Dugan, Jarrod Croker, Blake Ferguson, Reece Robinson and even ex-Panther Sandor Earl have been tearing sides apart with their blistering speed and punishing tackle bust ability all season.

But it’s not just Canberra’s backs that are the talk of the town, it’s their young halves. The combination between five-eighth Josh McCrone and halfback Sam Williams may not be the NRL’s most high-profile pairing but they are doing more than enough in attempting to steer their side to a finals berth.

Penrith have made a number of interesting changes to their side that played the Storm. Windsor Wolves winger, Travis Robinson, who made a strong first grade debut last week against the Storm is gone and the ever-reliable David Simmons returns to the line-up.

Promising interchange forward, Matt Robinson, has been rewarded for his three outstanding tries from three games, with a spot in the starting side.

Struggling second-rower Cameron Ciraldo somehow keeps his position in the run on side but shifts to lock in place of tough guy Nigel Plum, who now becomes 18th man.

Shane Shackleton goes back to NSW Cup with prop Dayne Weston taking his spot and after an eight-week layoff, backrower Danny Galea is back in first grade! I can only imagine coach Cleary is giving Galea one last chance to prove he is of a first grade standard.

My crystal ball predicts Sunday’s game will feature plenty of points with very little defence. Both sides will be desperate to win – for the Raiders, to keep their finals aspirations alive and for the Panthers, to leave that dreaded wooden spoon firmly in Parramatta’s hands.

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