Panthers ready to step up a gear against toothless Tigers

Tevita Pangai Junior will play his second match for Penrith. Photo: NRL Photos.
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If Ivan Cleary wants to motivate his side ahead of this Sunday’s clash against Wests Tigers, all he needs to do is show them the most recent episode of the Fox Sports documentary ‘Tales from Tiger Town’.

A huge feature of the episode is the Tigers knocking off Penrith at Leichhardt Oval back in Round 13.

Michael Maguire, his team and Tigers supporters took enormous joy out of defeating a Penrith side that resembled a reserve grade outfit, as the State of Origin period began to take hold.

It was a dream for the Tigers.

This Sunday could well be a nightmare.

Penrith come into this match at full-strength, with the returns of James Fisher-Harris and Brian To’o adding to what was already a strong side thanks to several key returns in recent weeks.

The Panthers are primed for the Finals, tuning things up and ready to go up the couple of gears the coach says is left in them.

Panthers captain Isaah Yeo. Photo: NRL Photos.

The Tigers meanwhile are preparing to pack up their hub in Brisbane as the Finals evade them yet again, with last Saturday’s loss to Cronulla putting the final nail in their 2021 coffin.

To make matters worse, they’ll be without perhaps their one shining light – Adam Doueihi, who has picked up a knee injury and joins the likes of James Tamou, Daine Laurie and Luke Garner on the sideline.

Penrith made their critics step up and take notice with an impressive 25-12 win over South Sydney at Suncorp Stadium last Friday night. While they were down 12-0 early, once the Panthers increased the intensity – particularly in the second half – the Rabbitohs simply couldn’t go with them. It bodes well for when the two sides meet again in the Finals early next month.

The reality is this Sunday afternoon’s game in Redcliffe could get ugly for the Tigers.

They now have nothing to play for but pride, and they haven’t shown a whole heap of that when it’s mattered this season.

Games like this often don’t play out as the form guide might suggest, but it’s hard to see the Tigers matching Penrith. Not when they concede 50 points to a team like Cronulla.

Jarome Luai enjoying a Souths error last weekend. Photo: NRL Photos.

The Tigers just don’t have the players that take games by the scruff of the neck and show real ownership. They constantly let each other down, whether it’s a sloppy missed tackle, a poor kick or a misguided pass.

They lack connection, something that Maguire will have to fix next year if he’s to survive long-term at the troubled club.

Penrith present the exact opposite at present. Nathan Cleary’s game management is right up there with the best in the NRL, while the team plays for each other for the full 80 minutes – egos brushed aside as winning became a habit.

Cleary tormented Souths, and particularly Josh Mansour, with his kicking game last Friday night and we should see the same approach this Sunday. The Tigers will crumble under pressure if Cleary and co are as relentless as they were against the Bunnies for 60-odd minutes. Isaah Yeo has a chance to rip the middle to shreds.

Are the Tigers any chance? In a two horse race, anything can happen.

The Tigers do produce more offloads than any other team in the competition – but they just can’t make them stick.

Penrith should be way too classy.

Tip: Panthers by 40.

Penrith and Wests Tigers meet at Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe on Sunday, August 29 at 4.05pm.

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