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NRL 2021 finals week one: Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs – live! | Sport


Penrith Panthers



Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs in the second NRL qualifying final. Kick-off at Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium is 7.50pm.

2021 has long been heading towards a Storm v Panthers grand final showdown with the two standout sides from last season continuing their incredible form. And Melbourne continued to hold up their end of the bargain in the first qualifying final last night, dismantling the in-form Sea Eagles. Can Penrith put another contender in their place?

In most seasons the Rabbitohs’ 32 points-per-game average and only four defeats would mark them out as premiership fancies, but they remain outsiders because of the quality ahead of them on the ladder. The Bunnies’ four defeats? Two to Melbourne and two to Penrith, with the Storm and Panthers each racking up 50+ points in midseason victories. Souths’ hopes were further hit in round 24 when Latrell Mitchell’s campaign was curtailed by suspension.

They can still call on one of the most exciting backlines in the competition, and in Wayne Bennett they have the wiliest old fox in the coaches’ box, but do they have the intensity over 80 minutes to unsettle the Panthers?

Ivan Cleary’s black machine have been bulldozing opponents for two years now, losing just four regular season matches since the start of 2020. They’re tough up front, clinical behind, and in Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai they have a telepathic halves combination that knows exactly the right rein to pull.

After seeing Melbourne’s clinic yesterday, and still smarting from last year’s grand final defeat, the Panthers will be out to prove a point and begin their finals campaign with a bang.

I’ll be back with more shortly, but if you would like to join in, you can reach me by email or Twitter (@JPHowcroft).


Who will move one step closer to the NRL premiership trophy tonight? Photograph: Darren England/AAP

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