Warriors v Panthers preview

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Warriors v Penrith Panthers Sunday 2:00pm at Mt Smart Stadium

The outcome of this one is not so Clear(y).

Four straight for Penrith looks good on paper, but their task to make it five on the bounce has hit a huge snag, with NSW half Nathan Cleary pulling up lame in last weekend's second State of Origin clash.

A syndesmosis injury sees the child prodigy off the park for a few weeks, and that starts this Sunday when the boys in black travel across to Auckland to face the unpredictable Warriors.

It's only been five rounds since the Warriors visited the foot of the mountains - and left with a 20-point win and two competition points to keep them in the top eight mix. That was Penrith's sixth straight defeat and had them languishing with Gold Coast and Canterbury in the NRL's cellar. Fast-forward to June 30 and they are now a shady chance at a top eight berth if they keep winning football games.

The Warriors come into the game as last-start victors themselves, putting the Titans away by four points prior to Origin II - but had lost to both Brisbane and competition leaders Melbourne in the two matches before that.

All of this makes a look at the teamlists the more interesting. Stephen Kearney has recalled Nathaniel Roache at hooker, with Issac Luke dropping out. Sam Lisone and Leivaha Pulu are named on the interchange with Tevita Satae pushed back to the reserves, while Tohu Harris is out injured.

Penrith's lineup has minimal changes despite Cleary's absence. Bench utility Jarome Luai moves into the five-eighth role (Maloney shifts to halfback), with Hame Sele added to the interchange.

Last meeting: Round 10 2019 - Panthers 10 Warriors 30

Across 43 meetings, the Panthers hold a 24 win to 18 lead in the head-to-head record here. Penrith have won seven of the last ten matches between the clubs.

Who to watch: It's match 150 for Warriors halfback Blake Green, an NRL journeyman who has reached this milestone by debuting in 2007 and traversing six clubs in the competition. The figure of course doesn't include his 88 top-flight games in the Super League and Challenge Cup for Hull KR and Wigan, but here in Australia, he's pulled on jumpers for the Eels, Sharks, Bulldogs, Storm and Sea Eagles before arriving in Auckland last year and becoming a key component of the Warriors' attack. He and Kodi Nikorima have a chance to take this game by the scruff of the neck with the opposition missing their regular halfback.

After delivering an outstanding performance in Origin II, James Maloney will be barbequeing alone at halfback in the absence of Cleary. Whether he can take control in the same way he did in Perth last Sunday remains to be seen - with the greatest respect to Jarome Luai he's not Wade Graham - so it will be interesting to see how the pair share the responsibility.

The favourite: Home ground advantage and the absence of Cleary for Penrith means the Warriors are better backed here.

My tip: As good as Jimmy Maloney can be, it's difficult to see the Panthers overcoming the loss of Cleary in one short week. Warriors by 12.


1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. David Fusitua 3. Peta Hiku 4. Patrick Herbert 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Blake Green 8. Agnatius Paasi 9. Karl Lawton 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Adam Blair 12. Isaiah Papalii 13. Jazz Tevaga 14. Nathaniel Roache 15. Bunty Afoa 16. Sam Lisone 17. Leivaha Pulu

1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Isaah Yeo 4. Brent Naden 5. Brian To'o 6. Jarome Luai 7. James Maloney 8. James Tamou 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Frank Winterstein 13. Liam Martin 14. Wayde Egan 15. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 16. Moses Leota 21. Dean Whare


Referees: Gerard Sutton, Adam Cassidy; Sideline Officials: Rickey McFarlane, Drew Oultram; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Bryan Norrie;



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