Sharks circle Panthers

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The NRL’s two worst attacking teams go head to head this Saturday at Remondis Stadium in what is one of round eight’s toughest games to pick.

Penrith sit in seventh spot on the competition table but have scored just 109 points this season. Only this weekend’s opponents, Cronulla, have scored less with 87 points to their name.

You would think it’d indicate a low-scoring, tight contest on Saturday afternoon but I actually think there will be plenty of points scored, with one of these sides to wake from their try-scoring slumber.

Penrith defended superbly against the Titans on Monday night and while only scoring two tries, their attack was much more direct than it was against the Rabbitohs, suggesting things are indeed heading in the right direction.

The Panthers may be struggling to pile on the tries but their defence has been reasonably solid, conceding just 110 points so far this season – the fourth best in the competition.

On the other hand, Cronulla have conceded 158 points – among the competition’s worst – but you cannot question their effort against defending premiers Sydney last Saturday night.

The Sharks have proved they can be competitive in matches and against the Warriors a few weeks ago, showed what they can do on the limited occasions they do get their attack right.

Not surprisingly, Todd Carney is the real danger man for the Sharks this weekend. When he plays well, Cronulla play well – he just hasn’t done it enough this season and has also been hampered by injury.

While Beau Ryan’s likely return will add some spice to the game given his apparent feud with Jamie Soward, the real battle will be among the forwards.

Tim Grant played one of his better games last weekend and if he continues that sort of form, he will not only leave Penrith on a high at season’s end but may also find himself back in a sky blue jumper come Origin time.

His renewed energy when taking up the ball was a real highlight against Gold Coast on Monday.

Nigel Plum’s return added some grunt to the side last weekend and he’ll be even better for the run heading into the game against Cronulla, but the Panthers have suffered a massive blow with Adam Docker likely to be suspended for a dangerous throw (at the time of printing).

Docker is playing great footy and is on the verge of a breakout game, so his suspension comes at an awful time.

The Sharks have their own power pack – Andrew Fifita is an obvious danger while former Panther Wade Graham has just re-signed with Cronulla and has been one of their better players this season. He’ll be keen to fire against his old club.

One player to keep an eye on will be Panthers interchange star Tyrone Peachey, who faces his former club for the first time and admits he’s got a point to prove on his return to the Shire.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself but I want to have a good game,” Peachey said.

“It will be good to win down there, it’s always hard at Cronulla because they love their home ground. If we win down there, it’ll be massive.”

Peter Wallace knows it’ll be tough to back-up from Monday night’s clash with the Titans.

“It’s not going to be easy down at Cronulla because we have a short turnaround,” Wallace said.

“It’s going to be a tough game and pretty dangerous when their backs are against the wall.”

This is a real danger game for Penrith. Cronulla may be coming last but in front of their home fans, against a side struggling to put teams away, there’s plenty of reasons for Panthers fans to be alarmed.

That said, if Penrith play the kind of footy they’ve played in their other wins this season, it should be enough to collect the two competition points.

Tip: Panthers by 1

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