In the wake of Penrith’s shock 42-14 loss to Souths, Penrith coach Anthony Griffin concedes that tonight’s game against the high-flying Manly Sea-Eagles is a must-win game if his side is to have any chance of becoming the first Panthers side to make back-to-back finals series since 2004.
Despite being just 6-9 for the season to date, the Panthers are hoping that a return to Pepper Stadium for the first time in over two months will spark the best out of a playing roster that needs to win at least six of their last nine games to make the top eight.
With the Panthers already precariously placed two wins outside the eight on the NRL ladder, Griffin says the team can’t afford any more slip ups after last Sunday’s loss and sees this Saturday’s game against Manly as a mini grand final if the Panthers are to regain any momentum in the post-Origin run home to the finals.
“We weren’t happy at all with the way we played last week obviously and after the five or six weeks we had before that was very disappointing to come up with that type of performance,” Griffin conceded.
“The game just slipped away from us and clearly we’ve got to be stronger than that.
“But we need to put that behind us and learn from it, that’s (been) the focus this week.
“Origin’s nearly over and everyone starts going up a gear and we have got to do that on Saturday night.
“We understand the way the ladder’s looking at the moment so tonight’s a really big game for us.”
The late loss of hooker Mitch Rein to illness last Sunday certainly didn’t help Penrith’s cause with first-choice hooker Peter Wallace also unavailable through injury.
While Griffin was satisfied with the job replacement hooker Sione Katoa did in Rein’s absence, he is looking forward to having the experienced ex-Dragons rake back in the starting line-up this week.
“Mitch spent most of the week in bed with a virus so he’ll come back and start tomorrow and Sione will come off the bench,” Griffin confirmed.
“I thought Sione did a pretty good job last week.
“But Mitch has been in good form and having his experience there will give us a chance to play some football tomorrow night.”
But the Panthers, despite having won six of their past seven clashes against Manly including the last four in a row played at Pepper Stadium, face a vastly improved Sea-Eagles outfit, entrenched in the top four and having yet to lose an away game in six trips so far in 2017.
It’s also been well documented that the Panthers although 6-2 against teams below them on the ladder, are 0-7 against top eight sides and will have to win at least on if not possibly two games against such calibre opposition in order to make the top eight.
Whilst Griffin concedes he is concerned about how Manly’s half Daly Cherry Evans will react to his Origin snubbing by the Queensland selectors, the Panthers coach adds that the other members of Manly’s spine, Tom Trobjevic, Blake Green and ex-Panther Apisai Koroisau, will need to be contained if Penrith are to have any chance of winning the game.
“They’re in great form Manly, they’ve beaten all comers so far this year and Daly been a big part of that,” Griffin said.
“Him and Blake Green, they’re both great players and their getting Manly around the park really well.
“The two of them team up together really well, they’ve got great kicking games.
“So I wouldn’t think Daly would be anything but at his best tonight.
“Also Api Koroisau out of dummy half is a really lethal runner as well.
“There’s a lot to take care of there and we’ll need to be at our best defensively.”
In other team news, Griffin confirmed James Fisher-Harris will make his return from a long-lay off though injury in today’s Intrust Super Premiership clash with Blacktown Workers, with an aim to bring him back six days later against the Warriors, while Dean Whare’s fractured jaw isn’t as bad as first thought and could be back within two-three weeks.
Photos: 77 Media
V MANLY: PLAYED 83 WON 32 LOST 50 DRAWN 1
AT HOME: PLAYED 40 WON 20 LOST 19 DRAWN 1
Penrith have won 6 of their last 7 games against Manly including the last four in succession at Pepper Stadium.
Penrith’s seventeen has a collective record of 53 wins from 74 starts against Manly. Six players have yet to lose to Manly.
Josh Mansour has scored 7 tries in 6 matches against Manly.
Manly’s Akuila Uate has scored 9 tries in 11 appearances against the Panthers.
Just seven players for Manly played in that R26 36-6 loss at Pepper Stadium in 2016.
Both sides are evenly matched for NRL experience: MANLY 1,230 games PENRITH: 1,219 games.