Four matches, four close finishes, three that didn’t go Penrith’s way.
The Panthers’ first month of the competition has been a classic glass half full, glass half empty scenario.
If you prefer your glass half full, you’d be happy that Penrith have led every match they’ve played at some stage in the second half and have been in a match-winning position – proving they have at least the nucleus of a winning football team. You’d also be happy that they’ve managed to be so close to victory in all of their matches despite not having arguably their best player in Matt Moylan on the park.
If you’re a glass half empty kind of person, you’d be disappointed that again so much promise has the potential to deteriorate into another average season. You’d be extremely worried about Penrith’s inability to close out matches that they have every right to win.
Whatever glass you’re choosing to follow at the moment, one thing is for sure – the next two weeks are vital.
Penrith face a couple of competition heavyweights in the shape of a rejuvenated Parramatta and defending premiers North Queensland in the next fortnight. A win against at least one of those opponents is vital to keep Penrith in touch with the top eight, as being one win from six matches starts to become a little difficult to fight back from.
Parramatta poses a significant threat this weekend. Nobody has defended better than the Eels this season – they’ve conceded just 39 points and managed to keep the Wests Tigers scoreless on Easter Monday.
But while their defensive record is unquestionably impressive, their attack hasn’t necessarily set the world on fire. They have the third worst attacking record in the competition despite winning three of their four matches, and showed in round one against
Brisbane that they can be vulnerable when they face an opposition that is at the top of their game.
It appears as though Penrith will finally welcome back captain Matt Moylan this weekend and his inclusion is particularly important as it’ll increase Penrith’s attacking options close to the line, which have been somewhat lacking over the first four rounds. With Peter Wallace shifting to hooker and Te Maire Martin still finding his feet, there’s been a lot of pressure on Jamie Soward to lead Penrith’s attack but he can’t do it alone, and Moylan will provide the back-up that Will Smith simply isn’t capable of at fullback.
The Eels’ danger men are obvious – Michael Jennings will be out for a big game against his former club, while Semi Radradra is probably the toughest winger in the competition to contain.
Kieran Foran may be struggling with ongoing hamstring issues but he’s still providing the direction that the Eels have been missing in recent seasons.
Most impressive for Penrith last week was Josh Mansour, who is in ravaging form at the moment.
The fact that this match is a local derby adds some extra spice and I’m expecting another close contest.
Tip: Panthers by 4.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.