The South Sydney Rabbitohs took a 12-0 lead in a rematch from last year’s NRL Grand Final which will decide who will face the Eels.
The Panthers ended the Rabbitohs’ 2020 season in Week 3 of the Finals and left the Southern faithful heartbroken last year with a 14-12 victory in the premiership decider.
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Each of the three times the two sides have met in the final has been decided by six points or less, with tonight’s clash at the Accor Stadium (7.50pm AEST) expected to be another barnstormer.
The Panthers looked to tire Latrell Mitchell early in the game, with Nathan Cleary kicking in early to test the Rabbitohs fullback.
“They make him work, put him in the contest and try to tire him out,” Michael Ennis said in a comment.
22ND MINUTE: LUAI PINGED AGAIN AS A DENIED PANTHER
Cleary’s kicking game appeared to have brought Penrith back into the game after a slow start when he sent a commanding bombshell to South Sydney winger Taane Milne.
After giving Waqa Blake all sorts of trouble in the qualifying final, Milne was the next victim as he overturned the kick, with quick hands seeing Charlie Staines pass.
“His team only went 25 yards and he launched a torpedo rocket,” Ennis said in a comment.
“It was Waqa Blake a fortnight ago. I’m sorry Taane Milne, it’s you tonight. You are assaulted. There was nothing on it. »
But again the video review would work against Penrith as Luai deemed he ran behind James Fisher-Harris and gained an advantage going into the try.
19TH MINUTE: KENNAR FILLS JOHNSTON’S SHOES WITH AN AMAZING
All the pre-game talk was about Alex Johnston’s absence and how Richie Kennar would replace him.
But the 27-year-old put those concerns to rest by flying over with a silky 20th-minute finish to extend South Sydney’s lead.
12TH MINUTE: LUAI’S COSTLY MOMENT AS SOUTHS STRIKE
Cleary was terrorizing South Sydney early with his kicking game and he looked to have set up the first points of the game, albeit in an unconventional way.
This time around Cleary sent him spiraling through the air and a nasty rebound saw Izack Tago running away to score.
The Bunker replays, however, showed Luai holding back Lachlan Ilias in the build-up, seeing the try disallowed.
This proved to be a key turning point early on as Souths came down the other side of the pitch and scored the first down.
A fastball play from Cameron Murray then saw Damien Cook link up with Mark Nicholls, who had the ball knocked out by the Panthers but Cody Walker was in position to pounce.
“The one thing you can’t do when you play South Sydney is give them cheap possession and we go back to the front game, poor discipline from Jarome Luai,” Ennis said in a comment.
Penrith made a late change with Mitch Kenny starting at hooker and Apisai Koroisau moving to the bench.
The Panthers did that the last time the two teams met and it paid off, with Koroisau scoring two tries in the 26-22 victory.
Speaking ahead of that game, Panthers great Greg Alexander said it was a “tactical” move by coach Ivan Cleary.
“Mitch Kenny is a great defender,” Alexander said on Fox League.
” He is hard. Api on the bench is something different. That they think Mitch can absorb the first 20 minutes against a big pack that was very good against the Eels. Maybe Ivan wants a little spark after 20 minutes.
Coming back to the Bunnies, they were well out of the Finals at the start of this season, before the return of Latrell Mitchell sparked a charge in the playoff rounds – although they only managed to reach seventh position in the ranking.
Led by Mitchell, the Rabbitohs beat the Roosters and then crushed the Sharks in revenge against the Panthers, who also beat them twice this season.
Mitchell hit the tee perfectly, converting all 12 attempts in this final series, but the team took a serious hit with try scoring machine Alex Johnston ruled out with a hip flexor injury.
He’s replaced by Richie Kennar on the flank, but it’s certainly a blow to their attack from the left edge. Siliva Havili is also absent, replaced on the bench by Jed Cartwright, while crucial striker Tom Burgess is also missing.
Going back to Mitchell’s kick, former Panther and now Sharks forward Wade Graham said on Triple-M he thinks it’s a “barometer” for how much the rear end is activated.
“He’s been so good the last six weeks, but for me my barometer for Latrell is his goal kick,” Graham said.
“When his goal kick goes well, it means he’s got his mind set, he’s focused and he’s at work. I don’t remember him missing a goal for ages.
Mitchell has now won seven straight finals and eight of nine overall, with the 2017 preliminary final loss to the Cowboys while at the Roosters his only blemish.
As for Penrith, winger Taylan May is suspended following a high shot in their crushing 27-8 win over the Eels – although he likely would have missed out anyway with a hamstring injury . Charlie Staines is his replacement.
Stephen Crichton is one to watch, having scored in six straight games against South Sydney.
As the Rabbitohs enter Saturday’s game in scorching form, Panthers legend Ryan Girdler believes there is a key ‘difference’ between this year’s Penrith side and the one that won the title last year. last.
“We spoke to Isaah Yeo on the show a few weeks ago and what would concern me as a Souths supporter is the fact that Penrith, they wanted to work their way into a premiership l last year,” Girdler said.
“I didn’t think they were in their best shape at the end of the season. They had a lot of injuries, a lot of disruptions, they went far and played the second week. I didn’t think their attack was so fluid. But this year he [Yeo] declared that their preparation had been perfect. They had round 25 and they had last week. They are full of racing.
“You saw how they did against Parramatta in week one. They are on fresh legs. They will come in with a lot of energy and a lot of excitement. I think it makes a little difference.
Girdler also raised question marks over how long South Sydney’s top players can maintain the scintillating form they’ve been in in recent weeks.
“I think the Souths have had a red line for a long time now where their most important players are playing at a high level for a long time,” he said.
“How sustainable is it? Are they still a few weeks old? I’m not so sure. They come up against a Penrith side who execute a plan better than any other team in the competition.
“The plan for Penrith is to go out there and play a really disciplined style off the back of Nathan Cleary’s kicking game and play with real intensity for 80 minutes and I think that could be enough for see South Sydney go.”
Penrith Panthers vs South Sydney Rabbitohs, 7.50pm AEST at Accor Stadium
The Panthers team: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Charlie Staines 3. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 14. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 9. Apisai Koroisau 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Jaeman Salmon. 18th man: 18. Sean O’Sullivan
Cut players: 19. Matt Eisenhuth 20. J’maine Hopgood 21. Sunia Turuva 22. Chris Smith
The Bunny Team: 1. Latrell Mitchell 5. Taane Milne 3. Isaiah Tass 4. Campbell Graham 21. Richard Kennar 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray 14. Kodi Nikorima 15. Hame Sele 16. Michael Chee Kam 17. Jed Cartwright. 18th man: 18. Davvy Moale
Cut Players: 2. Alex Johnston 19. Blake Taaffe 20. Josh Mansour 22. Jacob Host
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