NYC Match Preview: Raiders v Panthers

The Raiders Holden Cup side will be striving for their fourth consecutive victory when they run out onto Pepper Stadium on Sunday afternoon to do battle with the Penrith Panthers.

Canberra’s most recent victory was last week's 24-22 triumph over Cronulla although the side’s form was more solid than spectacular against the 13th placed Sharks.

The Green Machine will need to be significantly better this Sunday when they face the top of the table Panthers.

One of the star performers in the last game was promising halfback Tre Williams who scored one try and assisted in another two tries in his Holden Cup debut. Raiders centre Brenko Lee was impressed by the display from the Australian Schoolboy representative in Williams' first game in the Under 20’s.

“To come and play your debut game against a team that we needed to beat...I think he put his best foot forward,” Lee said. “Playing well against a team like Cronulla was good for him to get his confidence up. We need him to be as good again going into his second under 20’s game because Penrith are a really good side. ”

Lee said that although Coach Mick Mantelli conceded that the side had room to improve, he was happy with the outcome of the Sharks fixture and thinks that the result should put them in a good position heading into this Sunday’s top of the table clash.

“He was really happy that we beat the Sharks knowing that we could go in with momentum into the Penrith clash,” the Logan Brother junior said. “Penrith is a very tough team, obviously they are out the front of the 20’s competition so it is important to go into a tough game like this with momentum.”

In terms of the opposition’s game plan, Lee is expecting the Panthers to use their size up front with the 2014 Queensland Under 20’s representative predicting it to be a battle between the two forward packs.

“Up the middle footy,” Lee said bluntly. “They probably have the best forward pack in the competition so it will be a good competition for our forwards this week. We’ve got an underrated pack and they will be looking to put their best foot forward to show that we can match it with the top three teams.”

After what was one of the strongest defensive performances of the year in the close encounter with the Sharks, the Raiders will need to replicate the same defensive intensity against the Panthers from the kick-off.

Giving the Raiders forward pack confidence was the fact that they were able to stand up against the Sharks in the absence of star prop Tevita Pangai Junior, however they will need to lift another gear this Sunday given that the team will be without Captain Luke Bateman, who was suspended for three weeks after being charged with grade two dangerous contact charge.

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Bateman’s absence sees Connor Purcell return to the team at lock in what is the only change from last week’s 17. Jared McIlwrick has been included on an extended bench after recovering from injury..

The Under 20s game starts at Peppers Stadium in Penrith at 11:45am on Sunday with the NRL game following at 2:00pm. Both games will be televised live on Fox Sports 1 with coverage starting at 11:30am.