NRL Round 5

Whilst the game of the round will undoubtedly be the grand final rematch between Melbourne and Manly at Olympic Park tonight, I reckon the “understudy” game will be at CUA Stadium tomorrow night between Penrith and the Roosters.

Both teams played excellent footy in downing the Wests Tigers and the Bulldogs respectively, and I’m sure that the Panthers will want to show that their performance on Monday night wasn’t a fluke. They’re up against the form side of the competition – their halves combination is developing quite a solid element of control and poise, and it’s evident that Freddy Fittler has them headed in a much more assured direction this year than last year.

At the same time, Jarrod Sammut is settling well as the Penrith number 7, and the forward pack are answering the critics well if Monday’s any indication. There is plenty of uncertainty with who will be staying on into 2009, but the team as a whole are beginning to work themselves into a frame of mind whereby they know what they need to do to play the whole 80 minutes.

The main factor will be how the Panthers recoup, given that the Roosters have 3 days extra recovery time from the last game. It’s not a small turnaround, but in terms of freshness the Roosters will have the advantage, and the fact that Willie Mason may be a chance to play after being initially ruled out with a medial ligament injury shows that the team will be fresh and ready to face a team that they have had less than positive results against.

Ever since Fittler followed Phil Gould to the Roosters back in the mid 90s, these 2 teams have had a fierce rivalry, and this episode is sure to follow in the tradition. Although my head says that the Roosters will probably have too much, I’m going to lean towards a slight upset, predicting that in front of a healthy crowd of about 14000, the Panthers will get up by 4 points.

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