The Raiders’ run of good form has them sitting in ninth spot and only outside the eight on points differential as they gear up for the ultimate test against the premiers.
The loss of star playmakers Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai leaves a huge hole for Penrith and Ricky Stuart’s men get a golden opportunity to knock off the tallest poppy and announce themselves as genuine contenders.
There’s plenty like about the way the Raiders are playing their footy at the moment but they will be aware they need to go up another couple of notches to beat a side that has only two games all season.
A loud and passionate GIO Stadium crowd is assured on a Saturday evening in the national capital and they can be worth a few points to the Green Machine when the heat is applied by the champs.
Sportsbet Betting preview: Raiders v Panthers
Raiders: No late changes on game day after Xavier Savage dropped out on Friday with an ankle injury. Albert Hopoate takes over at fullback in jersey No.18. Jordan Rapana returns from suspension. Adam Elliott hurt his hip against the Titans but has been named to start at lock. Ata Mariota is 18th Man.
Panthers: No further changes on game day after star back-rower Viliame Kikau was ruled out on Friday with a hip injury. Chris Smith will start in the second row and Sunia Turuva joins the bench for his NRL debut. Sean O’Sullivan is the new No.7 and Jaeman Salmon comes into the starting side at five-eighth. Origin center Stephen Crichton returns from the nasty ear cut he suffered against the Sharks and back-up hooker Mitch Kenny (knee) is also back on deck. Matt Eisenhuth is 18th Man.
Joseph Tapine v James Fisher-Harris: When conversation starts about who is the game’s premier prop, these two powerhouse Kiwis are right in the thick of the debate. Tapine has been enormous for Canberra, averaging 165 meters per game, breaking 62 tackles and and creating second-phase opportunities with 37 offloads. Fisher-Harris is the main man in Ivan Cleary’s pack, averaging 144 meters and 30 tackles per match and invariably coming up with a team-lifting play when it is needed.
The Panthers lead the NRL in kick return meters with 4123, fullback Dylan Edwards responsible for 1821 of those with his dynamic kick returning ability. The Raiders are eighth for kick return meters with 2958.