Fire expected for Canberra-Penrith rivalry

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Fireworks are expected in the nation's capital on Saturday evening when Canberra and Penrith rekindle their rivalry.

The clubs faced each other in the 1990 and 1991 NSWRL grand finals, winning one premiership apiece, and somewhat quietly have developed serious animosity towards each other in recent NRL seasons.

They brawled after fulltime in their round seven clash after Panthers fans mocked the Raiders' trademarked Viking Clap.

That followed a 2021 incident where Penrith centre Stephen Crichton pulled Canberra prop Joe Tapine into their post-try celebrations and sparked another melee, after which the Raiders labelled their rivals arrogant.

Another clash from 2019 saw Penrith's Jarome Luai hit John Bateman high during a melee.

And stakes could hardly be higher this week with the Raiders looking to pinch an upset win and keep pace with the chase for the top eight, currently one game back from finals contention.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart downplayed media reports his team had been waiting all year to "ambush" the Panthers, but admitted the high-stakes clash produced a particular excitement among his group.

"I don't know if they've been in our team meetings, but we're certainly not planning an ambush," Stuart told reporters.

"When you're involved in a high-performance game results are everything and that's what we both want.

"That's what happens when you've got good football teams up against each other and there's a lot at stake.

"It makes it exciting, they're the games you wish you could play."

Penrith on Friday lost hulking second-rower Viliame Kikau to a hip injury, adding to their long list of crucial absences with Nathan Cleary (suspension) and Luai (knee) both out.

They will get Crichton back from his sickening ear injury though, with the NSW centre expected to wear headgear.

Asked if his side would target the clash as an announcement to the competition they were serious about a finals push, Stuart said that was up to others to say.

"We've made that decision, we know what we're doing privately and I think we've been doing it to be quite honest over the last 10 weeks," he said.

"We're finding some form at the right time of the season, it's all about timing."

Canberra have lost Xavier Savage to an ankle injury, while Stuart confirmed forward Adam Elliott (hip) would play while prop Corey Horsburgh will return in NSW Cup after a month-long battle with pneumonia.

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