Cronulla Sharks v Penrith Panthers
Friday, 14 September, 7:50pm
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
There are no second chances when the Cronulla Sharks take on the Penrith Panthers in Friday night’s semi-final at Allianz Stadium. The Sharks are coming off a 21-12 loss to the Sydney Roosters last weekend, in a game where they had multiple try scoring opportunities, but fluffed their lines. Cronulla has lost one of its best players in Wade Graham to an ACL injury in a cruel blow for the 2016 champions. Penrith put aside weeks of media speculation about how they would perform in the finals and produced a dazzling 27-12 win against the New Zealand Warriors last Saturday night.
Cronulla finished the home and away season in fourth spot and earned a double chance for the finals. It is now win-or-bust for both sides, and the winner will take on the Melbourne Storm in a preliminary final at AAMI Park next weekend. The Sharks have won both matches against Penrith this season. The first was a 26-22 win at Southern Cross Group Stadium in round seven. Cronulla was in control for the majority of that game and led 26-12 with five minutes to play before Penrith scored two consolation tries. Centre Jesse Ramien scored a double in that match and the Sharks will be hoping he is fit for this clash. In round 18 at Panthers Stadium, the home side was without its State of Origin players and struggled. They were defeated 24-12, as Cronulla ran in four tries to two.
Stats That Matter
- Cronulla has won eight of the past 10 matches between these two sides, including the last five. Only twice in that span has the final margin been greater than 13 points.
- Valentine Holmes has scored three tries in two matches against Penrith this season.
- Viliame Kikau, Tyrone Peachey and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak have each made 10 linebreaks to lead the Panthers in that category this season. The Sharks’ Valentine Holmes has made 26 linebreaks on his own.
- Penrith has been tackled more in the opposite 20 metre zone (779 tackles) than any team remaining in the finals this season.
- Cronulla (41) and Penrith (35) rank as the best two teams in forcing goal line drops out of the six clubs contending for the 2018 premiership.
The Wolf knows this will be a ding-dong affair at Allianz Stadium. The Sharks lacked polish and composure in finishing a lot of their good attacking play last weekend, but were left wanting in defence. Penrith started lowly against the Warriors, but a James Maloney kicking masterclass frustrated the Kiwi side and they had no answer. Without Wade Graham, it is up to Matt Moylan to shoulder a lot more responsibility with and without the ball. Can he step up against the club that he captained a season ago? Penrith have more points in them as well as the more confident halves pairing, so I’m backing them to get up in this one.
How It Shapes Up
Penrith by 4.
Best: Penrith 1-12 ($3.40)
Value: Penrith / Over 38.5 ($4.45)
First Tryscorer: Josh Mansour ($12)