Penrith v Canberra preview

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Penrith Panthers v Canberra Raiders Friday 7:55pm at BlueBet Stadium

The Panthers just seem to have forgotten how to lose at the moment. 

Ivan Cleary's men cruised to a big 46-6 win over Manly last week despite being without their first-choice fullback and hooker. 

They will be without Dylan Edwards and Apisai Koroisau once again this round with Stephen Crichton and Mitch Kenny to fill the void. 

Crichton was shaky early, caught out of position in the opening half on a few occasions while he was also thoroughly tested under the high ball. 

Getting some early catches out of the way will be key to settling any pre-match nerves on Friday night so he can focus more of his energy on injecting himself into the attack. 

Interestingly Charlie Staines switched to fullback at points last week, providing the final pass for a Paul Momirovski try late in the second half and that ploy could be used again by Cleary on Friday. 

The bigger test for Penrith this week will be containing a dominant Raiders forward pack. 

The Panthers have four forwards averaging over 100 running metres this season and while Canberra only have two, they come in the form of starting props Josh Papalii and Ryan Sutton. 

If the pair can lay a strong platform early it could rattle Penrith, who have grown so used to dominating from the opening whistle. 

Looking at the two teams, Canberra also look like they are more than capable of matching the Panthers' lethal bench.

Spencer Leniu and Liam Martin provide much-needed punch while Matt Eisenhuth is a more dependable workhorse. 

Then there is Tyrone May, whose versatility and varied skillset makes him a perfect super substitute. 

Canberra though have plenty of impact in the form of Siliva Havili and Tom Starling while Ryan James has been much-improved since making the move to the nation's capital.

The experienced workhorse Sia Soliola then rounds out the bench. 

Last meeting: Round 13 2020 - Panthers 28 Raiders 12

Who to watch: Given the strength of Canberra's forward pack, it will only be more important than ever that the Panthers get support off the bench from Spencer Leniu. The youngster is taking on added responsibility without James Tamou and Zane Tetevano. He is averaging almost four more runs per game along with 26 more metres this season.  Papalii and Sutton will prove a tough pair to shut down in the first half but if Penrith do that they will be confident in Leniu using both his size and leg speed to get the Panthers on the front foot.  

Canberra's clear advantage in this game is at hooker, with Josh Hodgson posing a far greater attacking threat than the far more understated Mitch Kenny. Leading the league for hookers when it comes to try assists and linebreak assists, Hodgson has a habit of sending big props crashing over close to the line and will be the key to tiring out a relentless Penrith defence.

The favourite: Penrith are unsurprisingly favourites given their 4-0 start to the season.

My tip: The Raiders have a forward pack capable of match Penrith's and a halves pairing that could test the still developing Crichton at fullback. Canberra were resolute in victory last week against the Gold Coast. Look for another low-scoring win here. Canberra by 6

1. Stephen Crichton 2. Charlie Staines 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Matt Burton 5. Brian To'o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Tyrone May 15. Spencer Leniu 16. Matthew Eisenhuth 17. Liam Martin 21. Jaeman Salmon

1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Sebastian Kris 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papali'i 9. Josh Hodgson 16. Iosia Soliola 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 17. Ryan James 10. Ryan Sutton 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Tom Starling 15. Siliva Havili 21. Corey Harawira-Naera

Referees: Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials: Todd Smith, Phil Henderson; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy;

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