Date: Saturday, 11th August, 2019
Venue: ANZ Stadium Homebush
Kick Off: 7:35 AEST
Head Referee: Andrew Gee
Assistant Referee: Gavin Badger
Head-to-head: Played – 34, Eels 17 Dragons 15 Drawn 2
Odds: Eels $2.65 Dragons $1.50
Broadcast: Foxtel, from 7:30pm
Last Four Encounters:
1. Dragons 20 def Eels 18 Win Stadium – Round 16, 2018
2. Eels 24 def Dragons 10 ANZ Stadium – Round 15, 2017
3. Eels 34 def Dragons 16 Win Stadium – Round 2, 2017
4. Eels 30 def Dragons 18 Pirtek Stadium – Round 25, 2016
The Warm Up
Have the wheels fallen off the Dragons’ Premiership wagon?
Given the pattern of previous seasons, and the Dragons recent form, it’s a legitimate question. With only one win in their last five starts, a 24 to 10 victory over the Cowboys, it’s starting to look like palpitations territory for their supporters who’d be as apprehensive as Shannon Noll at a private school old boys booze-up.
Of great concern to “Mary” McGregor would be the decline in the Red V’s defensive standards. The Dragons have leaked 136 points across the last five games, an alarming average of just over 27 points per game.
Just six short weeks ago, St George left it till the last minute to overcome a desperately unlucky Eels by two points. Parramatta have displayed some decent form since that clash, though their forward depth is being truly tested in this latter part of the season.
The Eels are literally down a full pack and then some, with forwards such as King, Pritchard, Alvaro, Scott, Ma’u, Williams, Edwards and Mannah either currently unavailable or gone for the season. Fortunately, young blokes like Niukore and Mahoney have filled the breach with distinction, providing Eels supporters with some hope for the future.
Will this clash play out as the ladder would predict or will it follow the form line of the last five matches? The outcome will likely determine this year’s dreaded wooden spoon, so Eels supporters will be desperate for the win.
Having a Punt:
This week’s value bet (TAB) is in the line/over under market – take the Eels with +6.5 points start coupled with under 36.5 points total in the match @ $4.25
The first try favourites are listed below:
Eels: Hayne – $9
Dragons: Dufty, Pereira, Aitken, Nightingale – all $10
Feed Your Footy Brain
The Eels have conceded a total of 74 points across their last five matches, an average of just under 15 points per match. In attack they’ve put on 96 points at an average of just over 19 points per game.
Tracking: Jaeman Salmon
Salmon’s debut off the bench against the Titans would best be described as an orientation to first grade. In retrospect, it was the ideal start to his first grade career – a late introduction in a winning match.
This week is a different beast entirely. Starting the game in the pressure cooker five-eighth position, the former Sharks junior star will see plenty of big bopper traffic sent his way in what will likely be a delayed baptism of fire..
It’s stunning to think that Salmon has found his way into first grade this season. With an entire pre-season spent in rehab, courtesy of that well publicised broken neck, the rookie contract player was always going to be eased into his career in Eels colours. A return via the Eels Flegg team in Round 5 was a galaxy away from playing in the NRL, which was further unlikely given his rookie contract status.
Early elevation to the Wenty ISP team was indicative of the high esteem in which he was held by Arthur, and injuries have presented an NRL opportunity for the man dubbed by Gutho as “the apprentice”.
Expect Moses to assume a game management/dominant half role against the Dragons. I won’t be looking for anything special from Salmon this week, but if there’s one thing that we’ve learned about this bloke in 2018, it’s that he won’t be overawed by the occasion.
Danger man: Matt Dufty
There is nothing more exhilarating in rugby league than sheer pace – and Matt Dufty went back for seconds when that gift was being handed out by the bloke upstairs.
The average player blessed with pace will look to others to put them in space, and the Dragons custodian plays a strong role as a support player. However, his capacity to drift across a sliding defence then explode between any staggered defenders makes him a dangerous opponent.
The Eels defence was punished out wide by the South Sydney backs in Round 15, and it was the inability of the Eels backs to hold their line that was primarily to blame. We’ve seen little evidence of players such as Jennings rushing out of the line in recent weeks, but the threat of Dufty’s acceleration must feature prominently in the Eels tip sheet.
Eels: 1. Corey Norman 2. Jarryd Hayne 3. Michael Jennings 4. Clint Gutherson 5.George Jennings 6. Jaeman Salmon 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Siosaia Vave 9. Reed Mahoney 10. David Gower 11. Marata Niukore 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Nathan Brown
Reserves: 14. Will Smith 15. Kane Evans 16. Peni Terepo 17. Brad Takairangi 18.Bevan French 20. Oregon Kaufusi
Dragons: 1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Jack de Belin
Reserves: 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Kurt Mann 16. Blake Lawrie 17. Luciano Leilua 18.Jacob Host 19. Nene Macdonald 20. Zac Lomax 21. Hame Sele
Mitchell Moses V Ben Hunt
Has the sheen worn off the Dragons halves?
Ben Hunt is arguably playing without the confidence that he had in spades during the first half of the season and questions have been raised about the impact of this year’s Origin on his football.
When Hunt is in form he trusts his football instincts and the game looks easy. When he’s out of form, game management and decision making appears to be completely foreign to him.
Hunt’s opponent, Mitchell Moses, has experienced a disappointing 2018. An impressive performer in Fittler’s Lebanese World Cup team, much was expected of the young Eels half this year. However, the sweet 2017 combination with Norman has completely dissolved to leave a dysfunctional spine for Parramatta this season.
For the second time in 2018, Arthur has shifted Norman to fullback and determined that Moses should manage the Eels attack.
There are no excuses for Moses in this game. The team is his and it’s time to produce.
And The Winner Is?
It’s often said that a team sitting at the bottom of the table can be a dangerous opponent, throwing the ball around with nothing to lose. That style of play is unlikely to feature for the Eels, but it doesn’t make them any less dangerous.
For the last five weeks, the Parramatta players finally seem to be trusting their processes. The full 80 minute performances may not be in evidence, but the team’s play is starting to resemble the form which carried the team to the finals last year. It’s not expansive footy but a grind. This season, the team had mostly forgotten how to grind out a win.
The Dragons are also beginning to resemble their form from 2017. Therein lies the basis for my tip.
I don’t expect this to be a high scoring affair, with maybe one try being the difference.
Eels to win by 8.
Eels 20 – Dragons 12
Man of the Match – Corey Norman