Whenever Parramatta and the Dragons clash, memories of those heady days of the 70s and the early 80s are rekindled for the legions of supporters of both clubs. Naturally, any clash between two teams with grand final history carries that added attraction of rugby league rivalry. However, there was something in the intensity and brutality of matches from that era that will never be forgotten. Even to this day, the controversial bashing that Parramatta suffered at the hands of the Dragons in the 1977 Grand Final replay remains a sore point with older Eels diehards.
Though such memories would mean little to the current team, or indeed to younger supporters, it adds to rugby league’s colourful past and will continue to get a mention whenever the history of these great clubs is discussed. For younger Eels fans, Parramatta’s domination of St George at the opening and closing matches of Parramatta Stadium is a much better recollection.
For two teams looking to create their own history, what matters most is the now.
It’s early days, but both teams had very impressive starts to their 2017 campaigns. The Eels had a hard fought, grinding victory against the Sea Eagles, whereas the Dragons had a field day against a very poor Penrith Panthers outfit.
The Eels showed resilience in attack and defence, but the Dragons defence was never questioned by the Panthers. Indeed, the Dragons attack was almost able to run at will against a team that offered the defensive equivalent impact of bump pads.
So realistically, this week’s match could show how good the Dragons really are. Was last week a flash in the pan or are the Dragons genuine title contenders?
Last 10 Encounters
|2016||25||29-Aug-2016||30||18||Pirtek Stadium||Eels win by 12 points|
|2015||16||27-Jun-2015||16||12||Pirtek Stadium||Eels win by 4 points|
|2014||10||17-May-2014||36||0||Pirtek Stadium||Eels win by 36 points|
|2013||25||02-Sep-2013||26||22||Pirtek Stadium||Eels win by 4 points|
|2013||10||18-May-2013||12||32||WIN Stadium||Dragons win by 20 points|
|2012||26||02-Sep-2012||8||29||ANZ Stadium||Dragons win by 21 points|
|2012||12||26-May-2012||12||14||WIN Jubilee Oval||Dragons win by 2 points|
|2011||8||01-May-2011||0||30||WIN Jubilee Oval||Dragons win by 30 points|
|2010||12||28-May-2010||0||30||WIN Jubilee Oval||Dragons win by 30 points|
The Eels are on a 4 game winning streak against the Dragons, but haven’t played at Wollongong since 2013. The Eels away record against the Dragons since 2010 doesn’t make for good reading, with a few heavy losses on the road for the Eels.
The point scores for past 10 games total up to Eels 154 to Dragons 201. The match average sees the Dragons up 20 to 15.
Of course, a more relevant statistic from the table above comes from more recent clashes with the current coaches. With Brad Arthur at the helm since 2014, the Eels have yet to lose to St George. He does have the advantage of all of those matches being at Pirtek Stadium, so a trip to Wollongong will be new territory for the Eels mentor.
Let’s examine a couple of key statistics from the first round.
The Dragons attack last week was on fire. The Eels will need to watch the Dragons second phase play as the Dragons got away 20 offloads against the Panthers. In contrast the Eels racked up 14 against Manly. Obviously the defensive merits of their respective opponents was a major factor.
2. Running metres (backs)
St. George’s back five all ran for over 100 metres each, which was very impressive even with their opposition’s inept performance. Dugan also made 10 tackle breaks. For Parramatta’s backs, only two (Semi and Jennings) ran over 100 metres, The Eels right side was a bit quiet with both Takairangi and Hoffman needing to look for more ball.
This leads us back to the question at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Are the statistics a reflection of the victors’ performances or a measure of the quality of the opposition? In reality, this is but part of the challenge of trying to draw a form line through early season results.
Looking deeper into the history books, these two clubs (the Dragons being the merged St George – Illawarra) have played each other 31 times with Parra holding a 15/14 win loss record. But at WIN Stadium the Dragons lead 3 – 1. From a venue perspective, Parramatta have played at Wollongong 17 times with a win/loss ratio of 8/8 and a draw.
Ignoring any historical perspective, this does shape up to be a great match going by last week’s performances. The Dragons won in a canter, whereas the Eels strangled their opposition. Contrasting but impressive victories from both clubs leaves fans intrigued about how each team will approach the match. Will St George adopt the same power running strategy and continue to chance their arm? Will the Eels game management starve the Dragons of territory and possession?
No doubt the Dragons will have something to prove from last week to show it wasn’t just a one off, whilst the Eels will be wanting to improve on their attack.
I’ll be in attendance at this venue by the ocean. Hopefully the Blue and Gold faithful will be in force with me at Win Stadium.
Stats courtesy of Champion Data. All these stats and more can be viewed on our match centre at http://mc.championdata.com/nrl/ including live game stats. Or download the Telstra Sportsfan app and/or Triple M NRL app.