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Panthers, Roosters put it on the line

COMPETITION co-leader Penrith and the defending premiers Sydney Roosters face major acid tests on different fronts today when they put their finals claims squarely on the line.

The Panthers have been the NRL's surprise packets, sharing the top of the ladder with powerhouses Manly and Canterbury (26 points).

The Roosters, though, are discovering how tough it is to be the hunted, sitting fifth (22) and looking to make a statement against Penrith.

The Panthers have hit a serious injury obstacle with coach Ivan Cleary running out of five-eighths because of Isaac John and Tyrone Peachey both going down hurt in recent weeks. But, it's forced him to thrust impressive young fullback Matt Moylan (pictured) into the five-eighth duties, which could prove a masterstroke with the way he is playing in attack.

It has also opened the door for exciting 23-year-old Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to show off his talent in the top grade.

Cleary has delayed a decision on damaging ball-running winger Josh Mansour, who is still struggling with the ankle injury which forced him off the field early in the 35-34 win over the Broncos on Monday night with the short turnaround likely to force him out of the game.

Having match-winning winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck back from injury alongside Shaun Kenny-Dowall is a big bonus for the Roosters.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson took his players into a minor four-day camp on the Central Coast knowing now is the time clubs will all step things up as the charge to the September finals hots up.