Desperate Roosters look to spoil Panther party in Friday night blockbuster

VIliame Kikau. Photo: NRL Images.
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As fearsome as the Sydney Roosters have been under Trent Robinson’s coaching, most of the big games between the chooks and Panthers have gone the way of the west.

Think the 2014 Finals match at the SFS, won via some Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Jamie Soward moments of magic in the dying minutes.

Or the 2020 Finals series, where Nathan Cleary inspired a tremendous comeback to put Penrith just one win away from the decider.

The rivalry between these two clubs goes back further, of course. There’s the 2003 Grand Final, won by Penrith 18-6 and regarded by many as one of the greatest deciders of all-time.

Go back a little further and the rivalry moves to off the field, with the defection of Phil Gould and Brad Fittler creating a bitterness between the two sides that has never really dissipated.

Stephen Crichton races away to score for Penrith. Photo: NRL Images.

There has always been something about the latte sipping Roosters and the working class Panthers that has got people fired up.

Friday’s chapter of Panthers v Roosters matches is an intriguing one.

To say Penrith would be rested after a week off would be fanciful given so many of the side’s players took part in representative football last weekend, thankfully coming through unscathed.

The Roosters too had a pretty big weekend of representative drain, so there’s certainly no advantage there.

Ivan Cleary probably could have rested a few players this weekend given the Origin boys in particular faced a short turnaround, but given there’s a bye waiting next weekend, they were all named on Tuesday and are expected to line-up at BlueBet Stadium on Friday night.

Trent Robinson does not quite have the luxuries that surround the high flying Panthers at present. His Roosters sit outside the top eight – almost unthinkable at the start of the season – and things are starting to get scary now.

You just always expect the Roosters to eventually get going but when they show signs of the form we’re used to seeing, it’ll suddenly disappear via a poor performance or an injury-disrupted game. It’s just not clicking.

Brian To’o in action for the Panthers. Photo: NRL Images.

Despite the 32-12 scoreline, Robinson may like to look back at his side’s clash with Penrith back in Round 11 for some inspiration. The Roosters went with Penrith that night, and it wasn’t until Jarome Luai crossed in the 28th minute that the Panthers finally grabbed the momentum. Luai scored again soon after and in the space of about 10 minutes the game was gone.

But the Roosters certainly had something that night; a glimmer that they could match it with the competition’s best, but probably needed a bit of luck to go their way.

With Luke Keary out of this game, the Roosters will rely on the halves combination of Drew Hutchison and Sam Walker to guide them around the park. They’ll need to have the game of their lives.

For Penrith to win it’s the usual suspects who must fire. Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai, Viliame Kikau and Isaah Yeo… and the ever reliable Dylan Edwards.

Nobody has let Penrith down this season, which has been a key ingredient to what is looking likely to be a Minor Premiership season in the very least.

Jarome Luai. Photo: NRL Images.

I can’t see the Panthers slipping here, but I do think the Roosters will turn up to play. The home side should run away with it in the second half, however.

Tip: Panthers by 13.

The Panthers and Roosters do battle at BlueBet Stadium on Friday, July 1 from 7.55pm.

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