REVITALISED after a break over the bye weekend, the Panthers return to salvage their season against a desperate Wests Tigers side also struggling to keep a claw in the all-important top eight.
The catfight erupts at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday night. Kick-off is 7.30pm.
In positive news, halfback Luke Walsh and prop Sam McKendry return this weekend after battling injury. The highly anticipated comeback of Michael Gordon was once scheduled for round 19 but he recently told the Star he intended to burst back into first grade one or two rounds after the bye. Also sidelined with injury is Nathan Smith and Clint Newton while young gun five-eighth Blake Austin has been ruled out for the year with a shoulder injury.
It's been a dire season to date for the Panthers, who sit in second last position on the ladder with just four wins and 12 losses. Mediocre defence and a string of fundamental errors allowed the South Sydney Rabbitohs to condemn the side to a 38-12 loss in their most recent match. Before that, the team went down 19-18 to the Parramatta Eels. Yet the losses didn't spawn all bad news. The Panthers' completion rate against the Bunnies was a respectable 80 per cent and against the Eels 87 per cent.
The Panthers have beaten the Tigers on 14 of their 22 clashes for a success rate of 63 per cent. The only team they have a better record of success against is the Titans. As for away matches, the Panthers have won six of their ten against the Tigers for a success rate of 60 per cent.
Panthers skipper Kevin Kingston told the Star the team, refreshed after the bye, were determined to get a victory. The tenacious hooker said solid defence was a key focus and that they must keep a close eye on Tigers danger men Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall. With eight rounds to go, Kingston said the Panthers "still had a sniff" at making the finals.
It's the beginning of the end of Luke Lewis' tenure at Penrith and the Tigers are set to fall victim to a revamped Panthers line-up eager to end their unfortunate season with a bang. Panthers by 18.