Penrith go into Friday night’s match against the Warriors at Campbelltown Stadium with very little time to think about what happened, or what could have happened, at Campbelltown Stadium last Sunday afternoon.
While the Panthers walked away from their new temporary home with a vital competition point, coach Ivan Cleary and his team know that it should have been more. Up 14-0, and with Newcastle limping after losing Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson early in the game, the Panthers had every right to steamroll their opposition (especially with 59 per cent of possession).
Instead, the young Panthers lacked composure and allowed their opposition the sniff they desperately needed just before half-time, changing the match completely. Penrith never picked their heads back up again after conceding that try and Newcastle, full of belief and with Pearce yelling instructions from the sideline, grew in confidence by the minute.
With such a short turnaround, the Panthers have the opportunity to right the wrongs of last Sunday very quickly on Friday and go one better against a Warriors side that easily dismantled the Dragons.
TEAMLIST TIME ⏰ Panthers coach Ivan Cleary names his side to face the Warriors at Campbelltown Stadium.
— Penrith Panthers (@PenrithPanthers) June 2, 2020
Form lines here are difficult – the Warriors recorded their win on the back of a near perfect completion rate, something they’d be unlikely to repeat two weeks in a row. They also played an opposition bereft of ideas, that never really looked like crossing the line.
Penrith meanwhile seemed totally in control of their game for 39 minutes, before things went awfully awry. There were moments, however, that suggested the Panthers had come out of the shutdown with a strong mindset and impressive fitness.
It makes for a tipster’s nightmare at Campbelltown on Friday.
The Warriors, already dealing with injury issues, will be without Agnatius Paasi for this week’s game due to suspension, while Peta Hiku is out with a rib injury.
The Panthers look set to field the same side that almost got the job done on Sunday, with the only change being the addition of Liam Martin on the bench.
That means Brent Naden remains sidelined to make way for Stephen Crichton, the lanky centre that Penrith coach Ivan Cleary wants to give more game time. He also brings the added bonus of a strong goal kicking record.
With Nathan Cleary still sitting on the sideline, game management will remain an issue for Penrith for at least another week. Jarome Luai and Matt Burton are both talented players, but they lack the required experience to properly manage a set, and to get the best result come the last tackle. It’s only human nature Burton would also be rattled by his five missed field goal attempts against the Knights, so it’s likely he’ll be in his shell a little – at least at first – against the Warriors.
Penrith need the likes of James Tamou to step up, not only with rampaging runs and strong defence, but with the talk on the field. From the stands last Sunday, I noticed how often Josh Mansour injected himself into the on-field talk, but he can only do so much from the wing. Louder voices are needed from the centre of the park.
As long as the Panthers take the positives out of the draw with Newcastle and don’t dwell on the disappointing aspects of the performance, I’m confident they can start well again and perhaps hold their lead, learning the lessons of the previous round.
Tip: Panthers by 6.
The Panthers and Warriors do battle at Campbelltown Stadium on Friday, June 5 at 6pm.
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.