Penrith adopt finals mindset for Dragons

Penrith will treat their NRL clash with St George Illawarra as sudden-death to combat their ninth-placed opponent’s desperation to play finals football.

While the Panthers push for a top-four spot, the Dragons sit a win outside the top eight with two games remaining.

“We’ll prepare as if it’s a semi-final game this weekend,” said Panthers lock Trent Merrin ahead of Sunday’s match at Pepper Stadium.

“It’s a tough job. They’ve got a great, big pack and they’re mobile.

“We’ll be doing our homework.”

Sunday’s match will go a long way to deciding the eight, with North Queensland and Manly, seventh and eighth respectively, unable to lock up finals berths by losing their last two matches.

But the Dragons missed their chance with a loss to Brisbane on Saturday.

After winning 26-22 in Canberra on Sunday, the Panthers can move into fourth by beating the Dragons if Brisbane overcome fifth-placed Parramatta and Cronulla lose to the Sydney Roosters.

Penrith will vie for their eighth-straight win against the Dragons before facing Manly to finish the regular season.

“You can see it and you can smell it – finals,” backrower Reagan Campbell-Gillard said.

“The Dragons are desperate to try and get into the eight, so I’m assuming they’re going to come here with a real attitude.”

Penrith winning a top-four berth would cap the biggest march up the ladder in the competition’s 109-year history, with no team coming back from a 2-7 start record to do so.

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