Jamie Soward: No second chances

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There are plenty of mouth-watering storylines heading into tonight’s all or nothing Semi Final between arch rivals Penrith and Cronulla.

James Maloney coming up against his old club; Matt Moylan and James Segeyaro coming up against their former team; and don’t forget Luke Lewis, who could have his illustrious NRL career ended by the very club he debuted and won a premiership with some 15 years ago.

Along with those juicy narratives, there are also some unbelievable match-ups that I just can’t wait to watch.

The first one is Andrew Fifita up against Reagan Campbell-Gillard. We could see a real statement game from both these superstar props in tonight’s match.

At times this year Fifita has been the most dominant big man in the game and, conversely, so has RCG. Who will come out on top tonight? It’s anyone guess!

The next match-up I’m itching to see is that of Luke Lewis and Viliame Kikau. As I mentioned earlier, this is potentially Lewis’ last game and I expect him to be right up in Kikau’s face putting him under plenty of pressure.

Will the raw power of Kikau be too much for the 2016 Clive Churchill Medallist? We’ll just have to wait and see!

The third match-up is the battle of the speedmen – Valentine Holmes and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. If Penrith are going to win this one, DWZ will have to be on-song defensively, much like James Tedesco was last week. He’ll have to defuse kicks and be in the right position to stop any potential threat Holmes poses.

For the third straight year, the Panthers have made week two of the Finals but it remains to be seen whether they can get over the second week hump. The sacking of Anthony Griffin six weeks ago has shown it was rightly done because the side have managed to get to the same position that they did when underneath him.

Hopefully the Panthers have learned something from previous Finals campaigns and, judging by last week, I think they may have. I’m already seeing the fruits of Cameron Ciraldo’s labour, with the boys seemingly enjoying their footy a lot more and when they get it right, they look very dangerous.

While Penrith certainly have the edge over the Sharks in the halves, Cronulla’s forward pack is hardened and experienced. They don’t give away cheap points and make you earn them.

The loss of Wade Graham is huge for the Sharks, but he’s been in and out all season.

Without Graham there, Penrith should run plenty of traffic at Matt Moylan, to try and tire him. Moylan will have to organise a bit more and everyone’s going to have to rise to another level because this is it, there are no second chances.

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