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NRL Preview: Bagging Big Cats In The Mountains

Posted at 21:47 2010-04-22

Everyone knows the best time to head to Penrith is the early hours of Sunday morning when the cavalcade of teenage mum’s that have been drinking steadily at Panthers Leagues Club are looking for any man with a pulse and enough change for a cab ride.

Might have to make the trek out the M4 a little earlier this weekend with the Penrith Panthers and Wests Tigers slated to do battle at 5:30pm on Saturday Afternoon. The best out West will fittingly be crowned at Penrith’s CUA stadium.

Both teams have enjoyed a positive start to the NRL season going 4-2 in the opening six rounds. Don’t think for a second because both teams are out in the ‘heart land’ that there is no home ground advantage. CUA could just as easily be known as ‘Fort Panther’. Their lone home blemish came against a red-hot Melbourne Storm and they lost a total of four games at the foot of the mountains last season. On their last visit to the outer-West the Tigers copped a 44-22 belting at the hands of the Panthers. Penrith are 7-2 all time against the Wests Tigers in Penrith.

Half your luck: Pretty much everyone from Leichhardt to Campbelltown had a heart attack when Tim Moltzen’s knee gave way ending his season. Tigers fans hoped that the loss would not be to serious for them however it was clear in last week’s game against the Bulldogs that whilst young debutant Blake Lazarus gave his all, he was completely out of his league.

He will need to lift his game tremendously this week. The Panthers number seven Luke Walsh is on fire this season. He tops the NRL for try-assists. He has set up 12 four pointers in 2010.

Robbie Farah is in doubt for this weekend’s match. Keep an eye on how this proceeds. NYC hooker Chris Corby is on standby. Corby has produced some fine form this year however having two play-makers who are out of their depth will heap a whole bunch of pressure on Benji Marshall and Beau Ryan. Whilst Marshall is probably the NRL’s form player at the moment and Ryan is playing exceptionally well, the extra work load heaped upon them will make things tough.

Try hard: The Panthers are the top-ranked in the NRL for tries scored per game. They are crossing the stripe 4.8 times per game (on average). While Adrian Purtell and Lachlan Coote have scored five tries a piece.

The Tigers are no slouches either. They’re ranked fourth in the league with 4.5 tries per game. Lote Tuqiri has scored a try in every match and Marshall has crossed five times. Wests certainly live up to their reputation as a team of entertainers. In the same fixture in 2007 Tigers centre Chris Lawrence scored a hat-trick. Look for him to try and replicate that performance to give Wests the upper hand.

Metres Apart: How good is Petro Civoniceva? The man turned 34 a couple of days ago, has played a total of 312 first grade and representative games and is still one of the most intimidating men in the NRL. He is currently ranked third over the whole league for metres gained with a phenomenal 952 metres so far. He is a clear stand out for the men in black. Nobody else has crossed the 900m mark yet.

Showing that Tigers hunt with more of a pack mentality, there is no stand out players when it comes to this statistic. Beau Ryan makes the most with a relatively paltry 846m in 2010. As a team though the Tigers have made more metres than any other outfit, they sit at an average of 1426 metres per game. The Panthers are seventh with 1339 metres and will need more players to step up and take some of the pressure of Civenoceva is they want to stay in the mix.

Missing the point: The Tigers are an offensive weapon and manning up in tackles will be pivotal to their hopes of springing the win.  Expect Panthers Luke Lewis and Purtell to be targeted. They have missed a combined total of just under 50 tackles this season.

This is not to say that the Tigers are a strong defensive side. Last week against the Bulldogs they missed an inexcusable 63 tackles. The most they have conceded in any game this season. Liam Fulton’s 20 missed tackles in just four games makes him the chief culprit.

If both teams continue to be sloppy in defence, expect to see a lot of Marshall and Tuquri for the Tigers and Coote and Michael Jennings for the Panthers. These guys are breaking through tackles like its touch footy. All four of these guys are ranked in the top 20 for tackle breaks this season.

The tip: If you do hang around at Panthers Leagues for the aforementioned highly inebriated teenage mothers than you can expect them to be in a good mood.

The Panthers have played some great football early on this year and that is not changing anytime soon. An in form team with a strong passionate home crowd will be enough to see them take the two points.

The Tigers have been great this year. However the loss of a decent halfback has hurt them. Farah being in doubt only further compounds things, and if he is also ruled out then who knows how ugly this could get for the club’s faithful. They need to do their best this week and pray strongly for Robert Lui to be fit enough to return next week as scheduled.

The flair will still be there. Marshall will make sure of that. Both of these teams play exciting football and tries will be the order of the day. Take the overs on total points and if you are that way inclined look at Chris Lawrence or Adrian Purtell for your first try scorer.

The Panthers should be strong enough here to win 13+.

This is just my opinion though. Check out the PokerNetwork Sports Betting Forum for some great in-depth discussion on this game and every other game this weekend.

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Hopefully Joey brings back some cash from Penrith, and nothing else! Hopefully Joey brings back some cash from Penrith, and nothing else!

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