An old rivalry gets reignited this Saturday night when 1990 and 1991 Grand Finalists Penrith and Canberra do battle in the nation’s capital.
It’s a somewhat unexpected road trip after the Raiders were upset by Cronulla at GIO Stadium last weekend, forcing Ricky Stuart’s men into a do-or-die battle with a Penrith side that doesn’t look like it knows how to lose at the moment.
Penrith have conceded just three tries in their last 160 minutes of football but it’s the side’s attack that has everyone talking at the moment.
This is a side playing with an extraordinary amount of belief, and that can go a long way to winning football games.
Against the Bulldogs last Sunday afternoon they put on a master class in attack – headed by superb vision by both Nathan Cleary and Matt Moylan, who ran riot over a Canterbury side that got very tired late in the contest.
Attack will be the word on everyone’s lips heading into this Saturday night’s match with the Panthers and Raiders two of the most electrifying sides in the competition, but it’s defence that will ultimately win this match.
Whichever side manages to stop the flow of points from the other and takes control of the middle of the ruck will get home.
Along the way, however, you can expect some incredible free-flowing football to take centre stage.
On the Penrith side of the fence it’s likely to come from powerhouse winger Josh Mansour, who ran for 275 metres last weekend, produced two line breaks, bagged a try and celebrated with a picture perfect roar that will adorn highlights videos and pictures for years to come.
Expect Bryce Cartwright to fire up, too. After an awful missed tackle that led to Moses Mbye crossing for the first try of the game, he went into his shell and let others take centre stage. He’s become the ultimate ‘rocks and diamonds’ player but I’m tipping we might get a few diamonds on Saturday night.
As they’ve proven all year, the Raiders have plenty of attacking flair too. The ever-reliable Jarrod Croker is a point scoring machine, while Jack Wighton and Edrick Lee both constantly threaten to score tries out of nothing.
But the likely loss of Josh Hodgson is huge and plays right into Penrith’s hands. He’s been one of Canberra’s best all season and is the glue that binds the side’s spine together. The Panthers meanwhile have managed to stay injury free and have named the same side for this Saturday night that overcame the Bulldogs.
It’s been decades since clashes between Penrith and Canberra featured the names Alexander, Simmons, Carter, Meninga, Stuart and Daley.
But with both sides surprising the critics this season and emerging as true forces not only this year but in the seasons to come, a rivalry that had slowly fallen away over the years is back in a big way.
First bragging rights of this exciting new Penrith-Canberra era are up for grabs at 7.45pm this Saturday.
How can you not tip the team with all the momentum?
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.