After a long season, Penrith and South Sydney now find themselves just 80 minutes away from their Grand Final appearance as the two teams prepare to face the preliminary final on Saturday.
Junior Prime Minister and defending champion Penrith will enter the competition relaxed and match-ready, having enjoyed a week after beating Parramatta in the qualifying final two weeks ago.
With coach Evan Cleary resting 13 of his players in this year’s regular-season final against the Cowboys, the majority of Penrith’s squad will head into Saturday’s preliminary final after playing just one game in nearly four weeks — setting them up for a mouth-watering match. Against hot rabbits.
South Sydney once again booked its ticket to the preliminary finals – as they have for the past five years now – with a convincing victory over Cronulla just six days after a similarly dominant win over the Roosters at Allianz Stadium.
Match summary: Sharks vs Rabbits
Cardinals and Ace are no stranger to facing the Men from Sin Mountain in finals, having come down to Penrith in each of the past three years’ Finals series – titled defeating last year’s Grand Final and who – which Stephen Crichton tried.
Will it be the Rabbitohs who finally delivered a knockout punch in the knockout finals they haven’t been able to land in the past three years against Penrith, or will the Panthers continue their dominance and secure their place in the third consecutive Grand Final?
leopards: Mitch Kenny will start the match in a hooker with Abe Curaçao to come off the bench as they did in the first week against eels. Young Prime Ministers will be without Tillan May after he agreed to a week-long ban for his massive interference on Will Benicini in the qualifying final. His omission leads to Charlie Steins entering the winger in his 14th game of the season. Spencer Leniu is free to play after accepting a fine for his high interference. Sean O’Sullivan is the eighteenth man.
rabbits: There are no further changes on match day after winger Alex Johnston was disqualified on Friday with a hip injury. His place is Richard Kinnear. Substitute striker Siliva Haveli (calf) will miss the match to be replaced by Jade Cartwright who has recovered from a hamstring injury and will play his first game since Round 20. Duffy Moyle is the 18th man.
Abesai Kurosu vs Damien Cook
His Blues teammates, Apisai Koroisau and Damien Cook, will go head-to-head on Saturday as they go head-to-head in a thrilling showdown between the two ranked No.9 teams. Remarkably, Cook has lost more matches against Curaçao than any other prostitute in his career with just three wins and eight defeats from 11 matches. . The Rabbitohs have made a rake four attempts in their last six games and remain a near-line threat – as does their opposite number, Curaçao, who is more than 12 assists this year than he has scored in the past four years combined.
Nathan Cleary – Lachlan Elias
Nathan Cleary returned from his month-long suspension with self-confidence against Parramatta, and dominated the Sea Snake with his superb match of kicks to book the Panthers’ place in another qualifying final. There is no doubting the talent and class of the aspiring Kangaroos, and if he is in his match against Rabbitoh, he will go a long way towards sending Penrith to another big final. However, his corresponding figure, Elias, has been quite impressive over the past month and continues to improve as the Rabbitohs delve deeper into this year’s finals. His attack is just as important as the defensive work Elias has done in forcing interventions to alternate competitions – a division that will surely occupy his hands on Saturday with William Keko running in his face all night.
Elias is fine
No team has received fewer points this year than Penrith, who is averaging just 13.5 points per game. A quarter of the attempts the Panthers have admitted to this year have come from kicks that could open the door for The Rabbitohs to cause some trouble on Saturday night. Southern Sydney’s strength lies in their running game, with the Rabbitohs recording more streak breaks and streak-breaking assists than any team this year. The Souths also rank first when it comes to yards gained from offloading, a division the Panthers will need to keep an eye on if they are to stop their dangerous attacking opponents players.
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