Date: Saturday 2nd June
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Kick Off: 7:35pm
Head Referee: Chris Sutton
Assistant Referee: Gavin Reynolds
Head-to-head: Played 49, Parramatta 21, Knights 27, Drawn 1
Odds: Eels $1.50 Knights $2:65
Broadcast: Foxtel from 7:30pm
Last Four Encounters:
1. Knights 29 def Eels 10, ANZ – Round 23, 2017
2. Eels 20 def Knights 18, Hunter Stadium – Round 12, 2016
3. Eels 28 def Knights 22, Hunter Stadium – Round 7, 2015
4. Knights 42 def Eels 12, Hunter Stadium – Round 25, 2014
The Warm Up:
Two teams which promised so much this season clash for the first time since their pre-season encounter in Maitland. That day, the Eels seemed to herald a big year ahead as they demolished the strongest squad that the Knights had assembled for years.
Although the Knights enjoyed a promising start to the season, the loss of Mitchell Pearce to a long term injury has seen them slip to four successive losses.
The Eels themselves have had little to crow about in a season which has seen them discover new and unwanted ways to lose matches.
Parra were very competitive in their last up loss to the Broncos and had they converted a number of chances, should have walked away with victory. Of course, they didn’t take those chances, so they didn’t win.
The Eels have a significant injury toll, but you can’t help but feel that failure to beat an under-strength Knights would be a significant low in an already poor season.
Newcastle will be looking to do more than just put the ball in Ponga’s hands and hope he creates something (sound familiar Eels fans?).
Parra needs Moses to re-discover his kicking mojo and his skill at reading defensive line numbers.
Having a Punt:
This week’s value bet is for the Parramatta Eels at -1.5 with over 43.5 total match points paying $4.25 via TAB Sportsbet.
The first try favourites are listed below:
Eels: Bevan French & Josh Hoffman $10
Knights: Ken Sio & Shaun Kenny-Dowall $11
Feed Your Footy Brain:
Despite securing three more victories than the Eels, the Knights have a far worse differential – the worst in the league at -132.
The Eels sit in 16th place in attack and have a chance to lift their try tally against the team with the poorest defence in the NRL.
After a string of strong performances in the fullback role for Wenty, Josh Hoffman has earned a recall to the wing – the spot he held down at the start of the season.
The injury to Corey Norman has Bevan French taking up the custodian job that he enjoys so much. Hopefully this will see French far more involved in the match.
Hoffman is likely to carry the ball far more often than French has in recent weeks. His pace is no match for French (few can compare to Bevan) but his experience should stand him in good stead.
The Hoff had some mixed fortunes to begin the year, but he’s been one of Wenty’s best in the last month.
The bleeding obvious (and uninspired) call would be to nominate Kalyn Ponga then provide a link to his attacking showreel.
Instead, I’ll highlight Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
The enigmatic three-quarter is arguably a game breaker for both teams.
Most NRL supporters would acknowledge that the Kiwi International has the capacity to produce the odd error or seven.
Likewise, his height, gait and pace make him a dangerous proposition with the ball in hand. He is especially threatening when chasing attacking kicks, be it via a clean catch or a tap down.
Let’s hope SKD has one of those “special” performances against the Eels.
Eels: 1 Bevan French, 2 Josh Hoffman, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Brad Takairangi, 5 George Jennings, 6 Clint Gutherson (c), 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Daniel Alvaro, 9 Cameron King, 10 Siosaia Vave, 11 Manu Ma’u, 12 Tepai Moeroa, 13 Peni Terepo
Interchange: 14 Will Smith, 15 Suaia Matagi, 16 David Gower, 17 Marata Niukore Reserves: 18 Nathan Brown, 19 Kirisome Auva’a, 20 Jaeman Salmon, 21 Kane Evans
Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Sione Mata’utia, 4 Cory Denniss, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Jack Cogger, 8 Jacob Lillyman, 9 Slade Griffin, 10 Daniel Saifiti, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Mitchell Barnett, 13 Aidan Guerra (c)
Interchange: 14 Danny Levi, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jamie Buhrer (c), 18 Josh King Reserves: 18 Luke Yates, 19 Brent Naden, 20 Nicholas Meaney, 21 Patrick Mata’utia
Clint Gutherson vs Connor Watson
This is basically a match of the quality utility backs.
Connor Watson shifted to the Knights after being unable to lock down a spot in the star studded Roosters backline.
Watson’s game is comparable to Gutherson’s via his support play and confident running. Though he’s yet to own a position with the Knights, he’s already taking on a “Mr Fix-it” title at his new club. In this match he can be expected to defer the organisational role to Cogger, which should free him to do what he does best – run the ball.
Clint Gutherson is arguably the best fullback at the Eels and his captaincy was well suited to that role. However, the combination of Moses and Norman has outright failed to fire in 2018, so over to Gutho to provide the balance in the halves that BA is looking for. It’s not a big attacking stretch to switch from fullback to running five-eighth, but the defensive workload is bound to have its impact.
Gutho was solid if not spectacular against the Broncos. Given this was his first match in the halves since his injury, there was still plenty to admire. Expect his performance to go up a notch this week.
And The Winner Is:
Even with their own injury worries, the Eels look to be much stronger on paper than the Knights. The possible inclusion of Nathan Brown makes them an even stronger proposition.
However, the Eels sit last for a reason – and that reason is their consistent failure to execute on match day.
Based on the listed teams, it’s a comfortable win to the Eels.
Based on 2018 form it’s a toss of the coin.
I’m tipping the Eels in a surprisingly high scoring affair – 38 to 16.
Man of the Match – Mitch Moses