Date: Sunday, July 14, 2019
Venue: BankWest Stadium, Parramatta
Kick Off: 4:05pm
Referees: Gerard Sutton, Adam Cassidy
Head-to-head: Played 39 Eels 22 Tigers 15 Drawn 2
Odds: Eels $1.70 Tigers $2.20
Broadcast: Foxtel, Nine, Kayo
Last Four Encounters:
Eels 51 Tigers 6 Bankwest Stadium (2019)
Eels 24 Tigers 22 ANZ Stadium (2018)
Tigers 30 Eels 22 ANZ Stadium (2018)
Eels 17 Tigers 16 ANZ Stadium (2017)
The Warm Up
It might be a big call, but this Round 17 clash could go a long way towards determining the finals fortunes of both combatants.
A loss for the Tigers puts them in jeopardy of dropping back deep in the pack of teams chasing the top 8. A win over the Eels keeps them in the hunt.
A win for the Eels might have them dreaming of revisiting 2017’s Top 4 finish, something that seemed absurd a few short weeks back when the Eels defence had as much integrity as a MAFS wedding.
Wests will be pumped for a big performance for Benji Marshall’s 300th NRL game. They’ll also be looking to redress their abysmal showing against the Eels in the BankWest Stadium opener.
Parra will be buoyed by playing an “away” game at their home ground. Though a repeat of their 50 point hammering of the Tigers would seem unlikely, they will go into this match as very warm favourites.
But there’s only one place to win a game, and that’s on the field, on the day.
I won’t be counting too many chickens.
Having a Punt
The line/over under double has kept my tips in the black this season so I’m sticking with it again. Take the Eels giving 1.5 points start coupled with over 40.5 match points at the decent odds of $3.20.
But I’m also looking for better value this week. In the score a try anytime/win market, take Lane to score in a Parra win at the sweet odds of $6.
The favourites in the first try scorer market are:
Eels: Sivo $9 Ferguson $9
Tigers: Jennings $11 Nofoaluma $11
Feed Your Footy Brain
The Eels are the third best side in the NRL for offloads, averaging 11.1 per game. Though they allow less than that in defence (10.1), that defensive deficiency has them sitting as the second worst in the NRL at shutting down offloads.
The Tigers sit 8th for offloads, with an average of 8.9 per game. However, their defence is one of the best at shutting down second phase, with opposition teams getting away an average of only 7.3 offloads.
Will the Eels continue their offloading ways, or will the Tigers defence perform up to their season standard?
Tracking: David Gower
There’s no argument about it. In the twilight of his career, David Gower has struck a purple patch of form. The veteran Eels prop has made himself a must select member of the squad, and a look at the stats tells you why.
Injected into games off the bench, Gower averages 1.9 tackle breaks per game. This places him equal first Eels forward with Junior Paulo. His average of 1.4 offloads places him third amongst the Eels forwards, with only Paulo and Ma’u returning better numbers.
His value as a ball player is also revealed in his possessions vs runs. At 14 possessions per game against 10.3 runs per game, the numbers back up how he operates as both a link man and a creator of second phase footy.
In comparison, fellow bench player Peni Terepo averages 9.5 possessions per game and 8.2 runs, indicative of the lesser role he plays in attack.
I don’t think too many supporters would be disappointed if the Eels senior citizen went around for one more season.
Danger man: Corey Thompson
The Wests Tigers fullback is surely one of the most underrated players in the NRL.
The lightweight custodian and occasional winger is one of the most elusive running backs in the NRL, and it seems a fait accompli that he’ll beat the first tackler in every run.
Though his average of 3.5 tackle breaks per game is impressive, his season high of 9 is absolutely insane.
The key to his success is quite simple. Thompson leaves nothing in the tank in any run. Every carry is 100% energy. Quick feet. Tremendous spatial awareness.
He’ll play a big role in this game, no matter the outcome,
Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Brad Takairangi 4. Josh Hoffman 5. Blake Ferguson 6.Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Kane Evans 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Manu Ma’u 13. Nathan Brown
Interchange: 14. Jaeman Salmon 15. Marata Niukore 16. David Gower 17. Tepai Moeroa 18. Oregon Kaufusi 19. Daniel Alvaro 20. Greg Lelesiuao 21. Bevan French
Tigers: 1. Corey Thompson 2. Robert Jennings 3. Moses Mbye 4. Esan Marsters 5. David Nofoaluma 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Robbie Farah 10. Alex Twal 11. Ryan Matterson 12. Chris Lawrence 13. Matt Eisenhuth
Interchange: 14. Jacob Liddle 15. Thomas Mikaele 16.Elijah Taylor 17. Michael Chee-Kam 18. Paul Momirovski 19. Chris McQueen 20. Josh Reynolds 21. Oliver Clark
Dylan Brown vs Benji Marshall
The master vs the apprentice?
You can undoubtedly find some parallels between these two five-eighths.
Both had a background in rugby union. Both moved from New Zealand to Australia as teenagers. Both starred in high school rugby league, rewarded with selection in the Australian Schoolboys team. (Brown opted to play in the NYC Grand Final instead of the junior international.) Both made their NRL debut at the age of 18. Both had their first full season of NRL impacted by injury.
Here the comparisons end.
Marshall is lining up to play his 300th NRL game. He has scaled the heights of rugby league success – a premiership winner and a seasoned international.
Brown is about to play his fifth NRL game. Although incredibly talented, his future and/or success has yet to be realised.
Over the years, Benji has transformed from a flamboyant, air-sidestepping football prodigy to a mature game manager.
Dyl starts his career with big wraps on his running game, his defence and his composure. This clash with Marshall will be a significant part of his journey of learning in the NRL.
Brown will be doing his best to spoil Benji’s party. I’ll back him to do just that.
And The Winner Is?
The Tigers do many of the game’s basics better than most other teams.
They sit second in the NRL for dummy half running metres, set completions and kick metres. Throw in competition leading stats for missed tackles and it’s easy to see why they put themselves into the contest most weeks.
In all of the same metrics the Eels sit near the bottom of the table.
But the area of strength for the Eels all season has been offloads and running metres. With the ball in hand, the Eels ask more questions than most of their opponents. They sacrifice completions to challenge defences.
The Tigers can make the Eels job tougher by executing their regular game. Quick play the balls and dummy half runs have exposed Parra’s defence many times this season.
However, the return of Nathan Brown appears to have strengthened the Eels middle and the team’s confidence looks to be growing.
I’m expecting the Eels to get up in a tight contest.
Eels 24 Tigers 18
Man of the Match – Mitch Moses