Tuesday 20 March 2018 / 01:54 AM


Saturday’s sudden-death semi-final between Canberra and Penrith pits the NRL’s two hottest attacking outfits against one another in what shapes as arguably the game of 2016 so far.

The visiting Panthers have won eight of their last nine – with the only loss a golden-point defeat in Auckland – while the Raiders’ narrow loss to Cronulla their first in 11 weeks.

Mouth-watering individual showdowns abound right across the park: Leilua v Peachey, Wighton v Moylan, Austin v Cartwright, Sezer v Cleary, Paulo and Boyd v Latu and Matagi, Papalii v Fisher-Harris, and Soliola v Merrin.

But no match-up is more tantalising than that of Raiders right-winger Jordan Rapana and the powerhouse on the Panthers’ left flank, Josh Mansour. The pair showcased their brilliance again last weekend, with Rapana streaking 80 metres for his 21st try of the season – just one short of the Raiders’ club record.

Mansour was simply astounding in a near career-best display to help dismantle the Bulldogs on Sunday. Included in a return of 257 metres from 17 runs was a brutal fend and a searing break to send Waqa Blake away for a try.

He trumped that effort with a sensational 60-metre solo try to complete the Panthers’ stunning 28-12 win and take his season tally to 16.

Two of the NRL’s real personality players, Rapana and Mansour are set to produce the greatest wing battle since Wendell Sailor and Adam MacDougall locked horns in the late-1990s and early-200s.

Rapana is a virtual certainty to win a maiden New Zealand Test call-up for the Four Nations – despite the Kiwis’ depth in his position – while 2016 NSW debutant Mansour should be the first winger picked in the Kangaroos’ squad, adding to the four Test caps he won for an under-strength Australian side during the 2014 Four Nations.

Besides the energy, work-rate and X-factor they provide to their respective sides, the 27-year-old Rapana and Mansour, 26, have been statistical monsters throughout 2016. In the four key attacking areas for outside backs – tries, line-breaks, tackle-breaks and run metres – the pair are ranked in the NRL’s top three in three of the categories and seventh in the other.


Tries: Rapana 21 (2nd); Mansour 16 (7th)

Line-breaks: Rapana 24 (1st); Mansour 22 (3rd)

Tackle-breaks:  Rapana 128 (3rd); Mansour 131 (2nd)

All run metres: Rapana 3662 (7th); Mansour 4211 (1st)

[YouTube – SportsTube]

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Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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