After overcoming the Tigers comfortably on Sunday the Panthers will look to upset the Rabbitohs on Friday to well and truly signal their intentions.
It's a short turnaround for the Panthers but they have had plenty of time off recently with both of their byes within a month and only two games since then. The Panthers could benefit from such a short-turnaround, able to keep the confidence of their win against the Tigers right at the surface. The Rabbitohs played last Friday and have had plenty of time to rest their sore bodies after a bruising encounter against the Sea-Eagles.
The Rabbitohs were impressive against the Sea-Eagles. They capitalised on their opportunities and had to defend some serious pressure on their own line. It was their best game since they beat the Warriors in Perth and they did it even without Adam Reynolds.
The Panthers were similarly good against the Tigers. It was obviously a lowly opposition but scoring seven tries and conceding two extremely fortuitous tries was an excellent result for the Panthers. They were strong if scrappy from the outset with lack of confidence inhibiting their play, but as the match wore on they found an old groove and looked unbeatable in attack and defence as the game wore on.
The key for Penrith on Friday is to start the game like they started against the Tigers, minus the conceded soft try. Kick to the corners, chase hard, complete and put the Rabbitohs on the back foot straight away. They can't afford to concede soft tries like they did against the Tigers. The Panthers should be looking at video of the game the Eels won against the Rabbitohs. Be aggressive through the middle before going to the edge of the ruck and looking to Dean Whare and Waqa Blake to test their opposite number as well as make Keary and Reynolds do some tackling.
The Rabbitohs will be looking to do as they always do when they win. Send their bigger pack down the middle of the field and get Issac Luke capitalising off the back of that. The Panthers will have to stop that momentum in the middle if they are going to win. Nigel Plum and Elijah Taylor will have to help Korosiau out through the middle. If they lose the battle of the ruck then they will lose this game. The positive for Penrith is that they have a better pack then Manly at the moment and they have some confidence. It may be an option to get Yeo in at centre for Blake and get an extra forward on the bench. Blake may be too much of a liability in this game, although he has potential in attack.
Penrith will be looking to Soward and Wallace to control the game better than Adam Reynolds. In the red zone those men will have to be ready out wide on quick play the balls and look to get Cartwright involved close to the line so he can do what he has done so well over the past month which is create for himself and his teammates.
If the Panthers can add to their confidence early with a try or a big play then they can ride the momentum home. It will not be easy, they will have to be prepared to work hard for each other. Some of the signs last week were good as have some of the signs all year. The danger men for Souths are Reynolds and Luke, limit their say and the Panthers will go along way towards winning this game. It is a real do-or-die month for the Panthers and it has to start here. Panthers by 4.