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NRL - Rugby League: Panthers aiming to go back-to-back

Penrith Panthers face Parramatta Eels in Sunday's NRL Grand Final with both sides eyeing their place in the history books.

Described as Team Dynasty v Team Destiny, the Panthers are aiming to go back-to-back after beating South Sydney 14-12 last year, while the Eels are getting their first shot at the Grand Final since 2009.

They last took the honours in 1986 and will have a gameplan having handed the Panthers two of just four regular season defeats.

However, Penrith won their most recent meeting in the qualifying finals 27-8 and will be aiming to emulate that performance in Sydney.

WhatPenrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels, NRL Grand Final
WhereAccor Stadium, Sydney
When19:30, Sunday 2nd October
How to watchChannel 9 and 9NOW
OddsPenrith 19/50, Parramatta 21/10

Panthers the form horse

Penrith have been the best side in 2022, topping the ladder by four points and they will argue that all four of their defeats were injury and suspension-assisted.

This is their third trip to the Grand Final in as many years and they showed how good they are in their preliminary final clash against Souths, beating the Bunnies 32-12.

That win also came at Sunday's venue, Sydney's Accor Stadium, meaning the surroundings should not be an issue for Ivan Cleary's side, who are co-captained by the coach's son Nathan and Isaah Yeo.

Their pack, led by Yeo, also features Viliame Kikau and James Fisher-Harris and has had the edge for most of the season. Meanwhile, Cleary's combination with five-eight Jarome Luai and full-back Dylan Edwards, 29/10 anytime tryscorer, gives the side an omnipresent attacking option.

Cleary's kicking game is another element and he dismantled the Eels in their 27-8 victory earlier in the month.

Eels happy to be the underdog

That defeat cast a shadow on the Eels but they burst past Canberra 40-4 in the semi-finals and had no issue upsetting the odds against North Queensland last Friday.

Brad Arthur's side stormed Townsville to triumph 24-20 and are hardly short of action, with this their fourth straight week of finals football.

They showed great character and defensive resolve to beat the Cowboys, shaking off doubts about their relative lack of experience with a gritty showing.

While the Panthers won last year's Grand Final, they did lose out in 2020 and that might have left some scars.

In contrast, the Eels have a naivety about them and they will hope that excitement can carry them through.

They also have an inspired Reagan Campbell-Gillard who scored two tries last week and is 8/1 to go over at anytime on the back of his call-up to the England squad for the World Cup.

To add to their cannon, Parramatta have their own star half-back in Lebanon's Mitchell Moses, who like Cleary, can open up defences while also keeping the scoreboard ticking over if needed.

Cleary can be the difference

Despite his consistent performances, Cleary still divides opinion and is still to play for Australia, 4/9 World Cup 2021 outright.

That could be about the change with his tipped to wear the number seven shirt for the Kangaroos this autumn in England as they eye a 16th world title at Manchester's Old Trafford on 19th November.

However, his performance against the Eels in the opening round of the finals was phenomenal. That was especially so as it came on the back of a five-week ban for a dump tackle on Eels five-eight Dylan Brown.

The 2022 season has not been an easy one for the 24-year-old Cleary, 29/10 to score a try at anytime, with injuries also disrupting his progress.

But, after leading the Panthers to glory 12 months, a similar showing on Sunday would cement his spot among the elite.

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