With Sydney rugby league fans still on a high after State of Origin glory, Friday night brings together two clubs who have made big strides in 2014. It has been a few years since a fixture between Penrith Panthers and Parramatta Eels felt like a genuine big game, but this clash at Sportingbet Stadium looks to be the pick of the round.
Both sides go into the game in the top four, but need to maintain their form if they are to keep more fancied challengers at bay in the second half of the season. The Panthers are one of only two clubs in the NRL to not have any players involved in the Origin series. Looking at the shocking injury toll to come out of game one, it appears to be something they can take advantage over the next few weeks. Elijah Taylor and Lewis Brown are back from injury, but Jamal Idris has been given leave due to personal reasons.
Penrith fans have responded to their clubs improved performances with a near sell out expected on Friday night. The Panthers had been questioned about their credentials having only won home games early in the season, but answered in style by winning their last two away games against the Knights and Raiders.
Parramatta are likely to rest Jarryd Hayne after his monumental efforts in State of Origin. It will not have escaped the memory of many at the Eels that Hayne suffered a hamstring injury after coming off the bench on the weekend after the opening Origin game last season.
The Eels’ improvement has been based on a strong attacking philosophy – they are the equal second leading point scorers in the NRL. However, they will face strong resistance on Friday in the form of the Panthers, who boast the second best defence in the competition.
Friday 30th May, Sportingbet Stadium Penrith 19:45