For the second week in a row the Bulldogs went down as the short-priced favourites when defeated by the Cowboys last week, 20 – 12. With Josh Reynolds out serving the last week of his three match suspension and the later withdrawal of Josh Morris, the Canterbury back-line again was a shuffled one and not capable of converting their chances into points.
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With Reynolds returning to five-eight this week and Tony Williams back into the forwards, it gives the Bulldogs a far more recognisable back-line and one familiar to one that strung seven wins together earlier in the year. The Bulldogs sit fourth on the ladder, one win in front of the Roosters and Storm – both short-priced favourites for their respective matches this weekend against the Dragons and West Tigers respectively. The Bulldogs need to win here to regain some confidence and keep their spot inside the four otherwise they could head into round 22 in sixth spot.
Since scraping home by a point over Brisbane in round 18 the Panthers have lost to the Roosters and last weekend, unexpectedly to the Sharks 18 – 16. The loss of Panthers five-eight Peter Wallace, who will miss the remainder of the season, was magnified as the Panthers searched for the knock-out blow in the final twenty minutes against a determined Sharks outfit. Like their opponents this weekend, the Panthers are also on 26 competition points but face a tough run home to the finals that includes Manly, Melbourne Cowboys and Warriors. Penrith’s leading try-scorer Josh Mansour returns to the wing with debutant Will Smith taking the place of Wallace at five-eight, forcing Jamie Soward back into the halfback role. The Injury toll may be starting to creep up on the Panthers and facing a wounded by stronger Bulldogs’ pack this weekend without their strongest line-up, will make this game a challenge.
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HEAD TO HEAD
The Panthers toughed out a narrow 18 – 16 win over the Bulldogs when the sides last met in round 3 of this year at Sportingbet Stadium It was the fourth win for the Panthers in their six outings against the Bulldogs since 2010. The Bulldogs have let the punters down in the past fortnight and keeping those efforts in mind, the current market is wider than what is comfortable however, with Reynolds back with his regular halves partner and the Panthers forced to go with a new combination, the Bulldogs will have no excuse here not to bounce back.
Sam Perrett, Corey Thompson, Moses Mbye, Timoteo Lafai, Mitch Brown, Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson, Sam Kasiano, Michael Ennis, James Graham, Josh Jackson, Tony Williams, Greg Eastwood. Interchange: Reni Maitua, Dale Finucane, David Klemmer, Lloyd Perrett
Ins: Josh Reynolds, David Klemmer. Outs: Patrick O’Hanlon
Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Dean Whare, Jamal Idris, David Simmons, William Smith, Jamie Soward, Nigel Plum, James Segeyaro, Brent Kite, Sika Manu, Elijah Taylor, Adam Docker. Interchange: Lewis Brown, Jeremy Latimore, Bryce Cartwright, Sam McKendry, Isaah Yeo
Ins: Josh Mansour, David Simmons, William Smith, Adam Docker. Outs: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Kevin Naiqama, Peter Wallace (ACL, season)