Forwards to dominate in winter battle at foot of the Mountains

Moses Leota in action against the Sharks. Photo: NRL Photos.
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You don’t have to look far to see where this game between Penrith and St George-Illawarra will be won on Saturday.

Despite all the disruption through Origin and injury, Penrith boast a forward pack that has the potential to crush the Dragons in this showdown at BlueBet Stadium.

The best front row partnership in the game in Moses Leota and James Fisher-Harris are still there running the show.

And even without Liam Martin and Isaah Yeo, a back row of Scott Sorensen, Liam Henry and Lindsay Smith looks mighty intimidating.

James Fisher-Harris bagged a try last weekend. Photo: NRL Photos.

The best part of all is that everyone will be focused on the backs and the debutants this weekend. The experienced forwards will just go about their work and quietly get the job done.

Talking about going about their business quietly, what about Penrith last weekend?

While we were all focused on the supreme recent form of Cronulla and Penrith’s below par performances heading into last week’s showdown in the Shire, it seemed we let ourselves forget – just for a moment – that this Panthers team has won three straight Premierships and knows all there is to know about adversity.

The 42-0 thumping of the Sharks was the side’s best performance of the season and rekindled memories of the way the team so easily put sides away during the 2022 season in particular.

It was a confidence building win, not just for coach Ivan Cleary and his players but for supporters who have feared that this golden run was showing signs of wear.

How could you not be excited about the Penrith team that runs out this weekend? Getting to see Daine Laurie in the fullback jumper so ably occupied by Dylan Edwards during the Premiership run. Debuts by Trent Toelau and Preston Riki, both of whom have huge wraps on them.

Trent Toelau will make his NRL debut. Photo: NRL Photos.

And of course Brad Schneider returning just in time to guide the side around at halfback alongside Jack Cole.

The Dragons are also impacted by Origin with Ben Hunt, Zac Lomax and Jayden Su’A all called up to the greatest stage.

One could argue the losses for the Dragons will impact them greater than the ones the Panthers have suffered, given how desperate they are at the mid-way point of the season and the struggles Shane Flanagan’s side has with depth.

There were significant sirens sounding in that second half from the Dragons last week. After leading at half-time, they failed to turn up for the second stanza and after a year where it appeared improvements had been made, things went backwards in that 40 minutes against the Bulldogs.

Who knows what happens on Saturday. A Dragons win would not surprise anybody given the troops Penrith have missing. But I can’t go past this Penrith forward pack.

Brad Schneider is back for Penrith. Photo: NRL Photos.

In a game where usual attacking structures, flash plays and systems probably go out the window a little bit, an old fashioned footy cliché may rule the roost here: hold the ball and you win. And throw another one in for good measure: forwards win games.

There’s plenty to be excited about in this one, and as long as Penrith remains patient with the footy and doesn’t drop their guard early, they’ll get the chocolates.

Tip: Panthers by 10.

Penrith and St George-Illawarra will play at BlueBet Stadium on Saturday, June 1 at 5.30pm. The game is live on Fox League and Kayo.

Troy Dodds

Troy Dodds is the Weekender's Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia's leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.

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