U-18s National Junior Final Preview
Under-18s National Junior Final 2016
Penrith Panthers (SG Ball Cup) v Townsville Blackhawks (Mal Meninga Cup)
Albert Bishop Park, Sunday 15 May
When the Penrith Panthers and Illawarra Steelers faced off for the third time of the year last Saturday afternoon, many of the vocal Penrith crowd gave the locals some chance of causing an upset – although few would have expected what happened next.
The Steelers, decimated by key injuries, were eventually broken by the Panthers, who raced out to a 20-point lead with 15 minutes remaining. They made the most of their chances and defeated the only side to have beat them previously in 2016 – twice – to win the SG Ball Grand Final 25-10.
It was a thrilling victory and pleasing for coach Ben Harden, but the job is not done yet; Sunday’s clash with the undefeated Blackhawks in Brisbane will require them to lift another level if they are to be crowned national junior champions.
The Townsville side secured an incredible third-straight Mal Meninga Cup (under-18s) victory last week and seemed to do it with ease, overcoming the Norths Devils 38-16 in a result that many might have expected. As with the Cyril Connell Cup side, it means the Blackhawks will return to Brisbane to avenge their National Junior Final loss to the Sharks in 2015.
As with last week, key to the Panthers’ victory will be their defence. Despite their injury woes, Illawarra still had ample opportunity on Penrith’s line but the local boys muscled up to restrict them to just 10 points. They finish the SG Ball season as the top defensive side and will rely on this to contain the Blackhawks on Sunday.
Don’t miss a minute of the action – both the under-16s and under-18s National Junior Finals will be streamed LIVE on NSWRL.com.au this Sunday.