Almost everyone wrote Penrith off when they were thumped 30-12 by Canberra in round eight to continue a sorry start to the season.
However, Ivan Cleary's men now sit snugly in seventh place after a stunning seven-match winning streak, most recently dismantling the Dragons to stoke the fire of their flickering top-four hopes.
The Raiders are set to face a much sterner test than last time out against the Panthers but Ricky Stuart's Green Machine have proven their mettle in 2019.
With a steely resolve that is most evident in their defence, Canberra are parked in fourth spot and will go a long way to earning a coveted finals double-shot if they can beat Penrith at Panthers Stadium.
Given the logjam in the middle of the table, the rejuvenated Panthers can't afford to rest on their laurels if they're to stay ahead of the challengers nipping at their heels.
Panthers: With his team riding a seven-game winning streak Ivan Cleary named the same 17 which took care of the Dragons last week but has been forced to make one change with Viliame Kikau unsuccessful at the judiciary on Tuesday night. Isaah Yeo moves to the back-row and Liam Martin will start at lock. Spencer Leniu was cut from the reserves on Saturday, while Jed Cartwright and Stephen Crichton were omitted an hour before kick-off.
Raiders: Ricky Stuart has named Queensland star Josh Papalii to start at prop, but he did the same thing last week before moving him to the bench and going with Sia Soliola as the starter. There are no other changes to the team that beat Wests Tigers 20-12. Royce Hunt and Junior Collins were omitted on Saturday. In his final trim an hour before kick-off, Stuart left out Sam Williams and Sebastian Kris.
Match: Panthers v Raiders
Round 19 -
Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan EdwardsFullback for Raiders is number 1 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
Winger for Panthers is number 2 Josh MansourWinger for Raiders is number 2 Bailey Simonsson
Centre for Panthers is number 3 Dean WhareCentre for Raiders is number 3 Jarrod Croker
Centre for Panthers is number 4 Brent NadenCentre for Raiders is number 4 Michael Oldfield
Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'oWinger for Raiders is number 5 Jordan Rapana
Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 James MaloneyFive-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Jack Wighton
Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan ClearyHalfback for Raiders is number 7 Aidan Sezer
Prop for Panthers is number 8 James TamouProp for Raiders is number 8 Josh Papalii
Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Mitch KennyHooker for Raiders is number 9 Josh Hodgson
Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-HarrisProp for Raiders is number 10 Iosia Soliola
2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Frank Winterstein2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 John Bateman
2nd Row for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Elliott Whitehead
Lock for Panthers is number 21 Liam MartinLock for Raiders is number 13 Joseph Tapine
Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Wayde EganInterchange for Raiders is number 14 Siliva Havili
Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Jarome LuaiInterchange for Raiders is number 15 Emre Guler
Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Moses LeotaInterchange for Raiders is number 16 Corey Horsburgh
Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Reagan Campbell-GillardInterchange for Raiders is number 17 Dunamis Lui
- Referee: Ashley Klein
- Referee: Dave Munro
- Touch Judge: Tim Roby
James Maloney is renowned for his ability to forget any errors and focus on the present, often pulling out a clutch play when it's needed. In that regard, the Penrith pivot may have met his equal in Jack Wighton, the Canberra five-eighth similarly willing to back his instincts and fearlessly roll the dice. Whoever gains the upper hand in this battle will put their team in a commanding position.
For the Panthers to win
Execute in attack. Against a Raiders outfit that concedes a miserly 14.5 points per game (second in the NRL), Penrith have to utilise every opportunity. Halves Maloney and Nathan Cleary were brilliant last round with a combined four try assists and three line break assists. They'll need to be on song again.
For the Raiders to win
Stick with what works. Canberra's blueprint to success has been based on their efforts without the ball. If the Green Machine blunt Penrith's offence, they possess more than enough strike on the fringes to blow out the scoreline - even without Nick Cotric.
Brett Kimmorley says
I can’t wait for this game. Penrith look happy and they’ve got a great roster. This will be a really good test for their toughness considering the way Canberra play. I though Josh Papalii coming off the bench was a really big boost for them – they can have lulls in that middle part of the game. The battle of the halves is going to be great. Raiders by 2
It seems the Raiders defenders can bank on the ball going out the back when James Fisher-Harris is a lead runner - the reliable forward is first in the league for decoy runs with 193. Canberra top the NRL in dummy-half carries on 286, so expect their back five to do plenty of scooting coming out of danger.
And another thing ...
Dylan Edwards has been instrumental in Penrith's revival, running for more than 160 metres in his past five appearances - cracking the double-ton thrice. The opposite No.1, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, is no slouch either, leading the competition for kick return metres and ranking third for total run metres.