Panthers v Eels: Battle of Sydney's west in Queensland's north

It sums up the kind of year that 2021 has been that Western Sydney rivals Penrith and Parramatta will meet in the north of Queensland.

Mackay will be the venue for their week-two semi-final on Saturday night with the Panthers coming off an upset loss to Souths and the Eels building momentum after a gutsy win over Newcastle.

The Panthers have had a smooth run throughout most of the season but they were brought undone by the Rabbitohs in week one of the finals.

Parramatta have been much more inconsistent throughout the season and have a recent history of finals fade-outs counting against them.​

However, coach Brad Arthur is confident they can still improve on their performance against Newcastle when they nearly coughed up a 12-point lead before sealing the win with a late penalty try.

The winner of this match will progress to a preliminary final match-up with Melbourne in Brisbane.

The rundown
Team news

Panthers: Front-rower Moses Leota (leg) and fullback Dylan Edwards (foot) were late withdrawals before the loss to Souths.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said after the loss that he expected both players to be right for week two, meaning Charlie Staines in the backs and Matt Eisenhuth in the pack are likely to make way after coming into the starting side on Saturday.

Eels: Parramatta did not pick up any injury worries in their victory over Newcastle.

Clint Gutherson and Blake Ferguson were hampered by leg injuries but they should be right to face the Panthers.

Second-rower Ryan Matterson was left out of the game-day 17 and could be a chance of forcing his way into the squad this week.

Key match-up
James Fisher-Harris v Reagan Campbell-Gillard: South Sydney's middle forwards went after the Panthers' hard man on Saturday night. He finished with just nine runs for 79m in his 50 minutes of field team. If Fisher-Harris can reassert his dominance in this game, the Panthers will be on their way to victory. 

His former Panthers teammate Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been, like Parramatta overall, hot and cold this season but will prove a formidable barrier to JFH getting on a roll.

Stat attack
The 10 points the Panthers scored against South Sydney equalled their lowest output for the season. That came in Round 20 against the Storm. They've scored fewer than 20 points five times in 2021.


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