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Penrith Panthers vs. Wests Tigers Preview And Tips: Nathan Cleary returns to guide Panthers to victory
Panthers look to continue their winning ways over the Tigers
Penrith Panthers look to assert their class against Wests Tigers to kick off Round 11 of the NRL. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Penrith Panthers vs. Wests Tigers Preview And Tips
Panthers host Tigers at Panthers Stadium for the chance to remain in the top two on the NRL ladder. Panthers have been red-hot without their star playmaker and it's about to get even harder for the opposition with Nathan Clearly back in the team.
It has been an incredible season to date for the Penrith Panthers who are looking to score their eighth win from 11 games. Having beaten the Knights 29-18 away from home last week, the Panthers appear to have put their early-season struggles behind them.
Losing star Nathan Cleary early on could have put pay to their premiership hopes. Fortunately for the mountain men, James Maloney has guided the Panthers superbly and shown all of his premiership-winning abilities.
The Panthers have scored 233 points this season and given up only 164. That ranks as one of the best points differentials in the NRL and the quick play-of-the-ball rate is a reason why the Panthers' forwards have been getting on the front foot.
The Tigers have performed better than expected this season and they currently sit seventh on the table after a 20-12 win over the North Queensland Cowboys.
The victory was indicative of a team that has strong self-belief. Despite not having some of the stars other teams possess, Ivan Cleary has turned his team into a cohesive unit that has one of the best defences in the competition, giving up only 15.1 points per game.
Playing away from Leichhardt Oval this week is going to be the real test for the Tigers who have a poor record away from home. In their favour, veteran play maker Benji Marshall is in fine form alongside Luke Brooks with the pair putting on regular clinics.
This is the first time the Panthers and Tigers have met this season. In two games last season it was the Panthers which came away victorious. The first was a comfortable 36-2 win on Tigers home soil and the second was 28-14 at home for the Panthers.
The Panthers have won four of the last five against the Tigers but this Tigers team is a lot stronger than the Tigers teams of yesteryear. Expect the Tigers defence to be sturdy against the Panthers which will be firing shots left, right and centre.
- Panthers rank fourth in scoring this season.
- Panthers have two of the best goal kickers in the NRL, with 45 goals from Maloney and Cleary.
- Panthers have more kick return metres than any other team with 1,826 this season.
- Tigers rank first in set completion percentage with 79 percent.
Panthers have the advantage at home and they also welcome back premier half Nathan Cleary. He's on the cusp of making State of Origin and putting in some strong performances over the next few weeks could see him make the squad.
The Panthers have shown ultimate confidence in their ability to win from in front or behind this season. Despite a red-hot Tigers defence, the Panthers should have too much firepower and class.
Best Bet: Penrith Panthers -4.5 @ 1.90