Date: Sunday, 5th May, 2019
Venue: BankWest Stadium, Parramatta
Kick Off: 4:05pm
Head Referee: Ashley Klein
Assistant Referee: Chris Butler
Head-to-head: Played 35 Eels 18 Dragons 15 Drawn 2
Odds: Eels $1.80 Dragons $2.05
Broadcast: Foxtel, Nine, Kayo
Last Four Encounters:
Eels 40 Dragons 4 ANZ Stadium (2018)
Dragons 20 Eels 18 Win Stadium (2018)
Eels 24 Dragons 10 ANZ Stadium (2017)
Eels 34 Dragons 16 Win Stadium (2017)
The Warm Up
Two great rivals do battle in what should be a ripper of a clash at BankWest Stadium. Yes, the Dragons are a joint venture entity, but the historical rivalry between Parramatta and St George always adds something extra for the fans every time the two sides do battle.
The 2019 version of the Dragons are one tough unit. After being under the pump with two losses to start the year, the Red V scrambled their way to consecutive field goal victories and have since proven their status as worthy finals contenders.
The Dragons compete. They are arguably one of the NRL’s best when it comes to staying in the grind. Teams can’t expect St George to gift them too many opportunities. Any chances that come an opponent’s way must be capitalised on.
In contrast, the Eels of 2019 appear more than willing to chance their arm in attack. They show faith in their defence to counter the errors and opportunities that are the consequences of such a philosophy.
In a reversal of last week’s bogey scenario, the Eels have won 7 of the last 8 meetings with St George. The only Dragons success during that period came last year, when the Eels snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the last minutes at Win Stadium, handing a two point win to their opponents.
Both teams are coming off last round losses, but a near sell out crowd at BankWest Stadium should ensure a big match atmosphere. Throw in Corey Norman’s first match against his old team for extra spice, and you’ve got plenty to look forward to.
Bring. It. On.
Having a Punt
Can we just write off last week’s punting tip altogether? Call it a complete aberration – along with everything about the game.
This week I’m going to dip back into the head to head/over under double market with the TAB and take the Eels to win coupled with over 40.5 total match points at the sweet, sweet odds of $3.60.
If you like the score a try at any time and win double, and you think Moses and the Eels can return to form, couple him and the Eels @ $7.00
The favourites for first try scorer are listed below:
Eels: Ferguson $9 Sivo $10
Dragons: Pereira $11 Ravalawa $11
Feed Your Footy Brain
The Eels sit at the top of the table when it comes to run metres (averaging 1602 per game) and line breaks (4.9 per game ).
In contrast Parra perform poorly in set completions – sitting worst in the NRL with an average of 11.1 incomplete sets per game. Our kick metres are also the worst in the NRL. By way of comparison, the Dragons sit 4th and 1st in these metrics.
This says two things about the Eels play.
Firstly, they are throwing more in attack at the opposition – much more than recent years – and errors are to be expected.
Secondly, game management remains an area to improve. This was evident against the Knights where the kicking game could not provide any decent field position. The Dragons strong performance in these key stats prove that they won’t gift anything to the Eels.
Tracking: Manu Ma’u
Last week focussed on the future – Oregon Kaufusi. And in a beaten side, Oggy didn’t let anyone down.
This week, the focus shifts to Eels proven hard man, Manu Ma’u.
Like Kaufusi, Ma’u started from the bench against the Knghts and provided the punch that was sadly lacking from the starting forwards. In an impressive return from injury, Munz delivered 42 minutes of typically tough footy, including 124 running metres, a number only bettered by Sivo and Jennings.
The raw emotion of getting back onto the field was evident in his extraordinary try celebration. More noted for his silent, chilling stare, such an emotive display is not usually associated with the Tongan terminator.
Turning 31 this year, Ma’u is one of the senior players in the squad, though the late start to his career means that he has yet to play 100 first grade games. Whether this means that he has another 4 or 5 years in him remains to be seen, but if his form from the Panthers trial and the Knights game is anything to go by, the skilled forward still has plenty to offer.
He’ll be aiming to provide the Dragons with a reminder this Sunday.
Danger man: Tariq Sims
At 29 years of age, and with 162 first grade games under his belt, it’s fair to argue that the athletically framed Sims has yet to fulfil his potential. Yes, he debuted for the Blues in 2018, and yes he’s represented Fiji in international football, but his glimpses of devastating footy have always been just that – glimpses.
With so much experience behind him, the talented forward is yet to consistently wreak havoc on the opposition. The devastating and dominating performances can be just as easily followed up with significant errors – be it a dropped ball or a costly penalty.
That said, any opposition has to be prepared for an “on-game” from this colossus. Excluding his time with the Knights, he has a decent strike rate for a forward, scoring a try in close to one in every four games.
It hasn’t been a stellar season thus far for Sims, with the big man averaging less than 100 running metres per game. Can you sense that a special performance in front of a huge crowd might be on the cards?
Eels : 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Takairangi 5.Blake Ferguson 6. Jaeman Salmon 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Daniel Alvaro 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Marata Niukore 13. Tepai Moeroa
Interchange: 14. Peni Terepo 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Manu Ma’u 18. Ray Stone 19. Kane Evans 20. Josh Hoffman 21. George Jennings
Dragons: 1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Zac Lomax 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Blake Lawrie
Interchange: 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Euan Aitken 16. Jacob Host 17. Luciano Leilua 18.Mitchell Allgood 19. Jai Field 20. Lachlan Timm 21. Jonus Pearson
Mitch Moses vs Corey Norman
I’m taking a bit of liberty with this, as it’s matching a halfback against a five-eighth, but in the scheme of things, the positional difference is minimal.
It just wouldn’t be a preview without referencing this individual clash.
To clarify, there was no personal resentment between the two in 2018. But there was no denying that the inability of this combination to fire was a major factor in the Eels woes last year. And as Moses has confessed, he blamed everyone but himself for his failures, and no doubt Norman was not immune to the finger pointing.
This season, Norman seems to have the freedom to be himself and the Dragons have been the beneficiaries.
Likewise, Moses has been the major player in the Eels victories and appears to be relishing the responsibility of “owning” the team.
The role of Norman should be particularly intriguing.
The Eels would be well versed in both his strengths and weaknesses.He will hold a prominent place on their tip sheet.
Even more intrigue is added when you consider that Norman spent half of his pre-season preparing to be in Eels colours for the upcoming year. He’ll be quite familiar with pet plays and idiosyncrasies.
Undoubtedly, each playmaker will be determined to achieve the bragging rights that will be bestowed on the winner of this clash.
And The Winner Is?
Looking back on last week’s prediction, I’m not certain who to be more exasperated by.
I could take a look in the mirror and shake my head about my inability to recognise all of the factors in facing a bogey side away from home, with the Eels coming off an emotional high six days earlier.
Or I could rightly feel frustrated that the Eels themselves couldn’t see such a game looming large on the horizon from the moment the full time siren rang on Easter Monday.
This week, the Eels aren’t facing a bogey side. If anything, they are close to holding that mantle themselves. Key players such as Moses, Gutherson and Paulo will be determined to turn around a disappointing performance against the Knights.
There is a sense of the unpredictable about the Eels this year. Is that a good thing? It can be entertaining, but the Eels are definitely aiming for better control.
The Dragons are the antithesis.of this. Their game management keeps them in every contest. It guarantees a tight clash on the scoreboard.
With the home ground advantage and a big crowd behind them, I’m expecting the Eels to just prevail.
Eels 24 Dragons 20
Man of the Match – Clint Gutherson