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2023 NRL Fantasy Tips: Round 2 Panthers vs Rabbitohs
NRL Round 2 kicks off with an absolute blockbuster, as the Penrith Panthers host the South Sydney Rabbitohs. These two are familiar foes, having faced off 6 times in the past 18 months, with the Panthers winning 5 of those 6. This game seems different though, as the Panthers have shown to start the season, they look vulnerable with the key losses of Koroisau and Kikau, and this could be the perfect time for the Rabbitohs to get the monkey off the back.
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Despite the first-up loss to the Broncos last week, coach Ivan Cleary has resisted the urge to make changes, with his only change to the 17 named last week being the loss of Scott Sorensen (concussion). Veteran middle Matt Eisenhuth takes Sorensen’s place on the bench, in the only change. A hot topic of discussion throughout the off-season was the loss of Api Koroisau, and who would replace the 3-time premiership winning hooker. Cleary opted to start with Mitch Kenny, who played the opening 54 minutes at hooker, before Soni Luke finished the game. Luke looked impressive, and more minutes are surely on the horizon.
The Rabbitohs have lost two key forwards for round 2, with Tevita Tatola (concussion) and Jai Arrow (hamstring) set to miss out this week, replaced by Daniel Suluka-Fifita and Jed Cartwright. No other changes are expected, however it wouldn’t surprise if Davvy Moale starts again, with Thomas Burgess dropping to the bench.
Penrith Panthers ($1.54) vs South Sydney Rabbitohs ($2.50)
Points total – 38.5 points
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Given the high quality of rugby league we saw across the weekend in round 1, you can’t help but salivate at the prospect of these two premiership heavyweights colliding in round 2. The Panthers have had the Rabbitohs’ number over the past few seasons, knocking them out of the finals in each of the past two seasons. But if we go purely from what we’ve seen to start the season, the Bunnies have to feel confident coming into this matchup.
Over the past few encounters, the Panthers have been able to do what most teams can’t, and that’s shut down Latrell Mitchell. With Nathan Cleary’s precise kicking game, and the suffocating defence of the Panthers in general, Mitchell has failed to run for over 100m in any of his matchups against the Panthers as a Rabbitoh. If the Panthers can once again find a way to slow the Rabbitohs main man down, they may again find a way past the Rabbitohs.
This has one score game written all over it, but it’s too close to call for mine. Either way, it should be an absolute barn burner of a match up to kick off round 2.
Love It – Cam Murray - $21,520
Murray just went about his business in week 1, making 158 metres and 51 tackles in a solid performance, punching out 64.8 points. This week, he takes on Isaiah Yeo, in a battle of the two best lock forwards in the game. Murray always gets up for this battle, and I don’t see why that changes here. The biggest concern for Murray is possible head knocks and injuries, given the physical way in which he plays, however I’m more than willing to overlook that to take one of the best workers in the game. Added to his work rate, Murray is always live for attacking stats, and with points at a premium in this type of matchup, Murray could be just the man you need.
Love It – Lachlan Ilias - $12,600
Ilias had a coming out party of sorts last week, taking control of the Rabbitohs attack in the 27-18 round 1 win over the Sharks. Ilias was instrumental, scoring a try, setting up another, and having a hand in several other attacking plays. Ilias is also the primary kicker for the Rabbitohs, so will have a solid base to work from. After last weeks performance, I can’t see any reason why the Rabbitohs won’t continue to look right, and if they manage to make it work against this Panthers’ defence, they will be difficult to stop going forward.
Love It – Brian To’o - $11,920
To’o was slightly underwhelming last week, with the Broncos primarily kicking to Sunia Turuva. To’o still managed to run for 200 metres, however, wasn’t really given a chance to flourish inside the 20. I can see that changing this week, with To’o remaining on the right, I’d suggest the Panthers will funnel a lot of their play down that side of the field. With Kikau gone, the right side is now more potent, with the likes of Liam Martin, Nathan Cleary, and Stephen Crichton. If To’o can manage a try, he should be punching out 50+, which at this price is a nice little bargain for a player with such a high floor.
Hate It – Latrell Mitchell - $19,620
The premium OB in this game, Mitchell’s price is a full $2,420 more than the next most expensive, Dylan Edwards. As mentioned above in the overview, the Panthers have had the ability to nullify the power running game of Latrell at fullback, and whilst this isn’t the reason Latrell is such a potent fullback, the fact they can seemingly shut him down for the most part is impressive. Latrell is always a candidate for the rocks and diamonds selection, however against a Panthers side who will no doubt be aiming up this week, Latrell will have to be at his absolute best to warrant this price. Given the apparent niggling knee injury Mitchell is carrying into the game, I can’t use up this much of my salary on him, this week.
Hate It – Luke Garner - $11,620
Garner has looked out of his depth in his two outings for the Panthers. You have to feel a little for the former Tiger, given the Kikau sized hole he has been recruited to fill. Garner has shown in the past he can be a great hole runner, and with a bit more time running off Luai, I’m sure he can get there. But for now, I just can’t see a reason to bring him into your squad. He only managed 50 minutes last week, making 23 tackles and running for 97 metres. With those minutes, the only way he justifies the price tag is with a try or two, and I’m not willing to risk it this early in the season.
Who Knows – Nathan Cleary - $24,660
Cleary has looked a little sluggish in his two outings so far this season, with the Panthers losing to St Helens in the World Club Challenge, followed by a loss in round 1 to the Broncos. One of the more concerning things for the Panthers has been their redzone attack. The Panthers had plenty of opportunities, particularly last week against the Broncos, to win both of these matchups, and if the games happened last season, you’d have to think the Panthers would have found a way to win. 24 points in two games isn’t where the Panthers, or Cleary would want to be, and it’ll be interesting to see how Cleary goes this week. His floor is massive, but for the price, you need elite scoring. Can the Prince of Penrith turn it around this week?
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