Date: Sunday, August 4, 2019
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Kick Off: 4:05pm
Referees: Ashley Klein, Todd Smith
Head-to-head: Played 37 Eels 19 Dragons (joint venture) 15 Drawn 3
Odds: Eels $2.00 Dragons $1.85
Broadcast: Nine, Foxtel, Kayo
Last Four Encounters:
Eels 32 Dragons 18 Bankwest Stadium (2019)
Eels 40 Dragons 4 ANZ Stadium (2018)
Dragons 20 Eels 18 WIN Stadium (2018)
Eels 24 Dragons 10 ANZ Stadium (2017)
The Warm Up
“Good Parra” or “Bad Parra”?
The question about which Eels team will turn up has been predicted by the bookies who’ve installed the Dragons as favourites in this important contest.
How is this possible?
The only answer can be the Eels away form which would, admittedly, instil little confidence in the staunchest of Eels fans.
But, taking form on the road out of the equation, there’s nothing logical about selecting the Dragons. Apart from a heart-breaking last minute loss against the Rabbitohs, their form doesn’t warrant favouritism in any clash. To be honest, had they manufactured a win over the Bunnies it would have been on the back of a ten minute burst of energy rather than a well constructed victory.
Parramatta’s strong performances at home are an indicator that something goes amiss in their psyche away from BankWest Stadium. It manifests in the team’s defensive energy, and the opposition gets a massive roll on through the Eels middle.
The Eels draw from here on in is kind. Other teams fighting for a finals berth would be envious. But you don’t get a spot in the big games without earning it, and the Eels have yet to do that.
Furthermore, on current form they wouldn’t go too deep in the finals. Confidence and momentum will be important over these final six rounds.
The Eels must win matches like this.
Having a Punt
So near yet so far. The total match points was covered last week, but a two point win didn’t quite get the coin with a 5.5 start proving too big for the Eels to bridge.
I’m going back to the line/ over under double well for what I’m hoping will be a big drink Take the Eels getting 1.5 start (how sweet is that!) coupled with over 42.5 total match points paying $3.60.
For those not keen on an Eels win, or even those who are, take Waqa Blake to score a try at any time @$2.60.
The favourites in the first try scorer market are:
Eels: Sivo $10 Takairangi $12 Jennings $12
Dragons: Saab $11 Lomax $11
Feed Your Footy Brain
Has anyone put it to you that the Eels have a poor record at Kogarah? Have they reminded you that the Eels haven’t won there since 2009?
If so, they’ve probably neglected to mention that they haven’t played there since 2012!
Across all venues, the Eels have emerged victorious in 8 of their last 9 clashes with the Dragons. The only loss was a very unlucky two point defeat at WIN Stadium in 2018.
Tracking: Shaun Lane
Shaun Lane began his Eels career in spectacular fashion. His early season form featured line breaks and offloads, and suddenly the Eels left edge had become a weapon.
Though it would be wrong to suggest he’s lost form, it’s definitely fair to say that he’s become more of a workhorse.
His season averages back this up – 27.9 tackles, 102 running metres, 0.9 tackle breaks, 0.6 offloads. There’s nothing special in these returns.
A domestic injury (a deeply cut finger) on match day explained his ordinary game at Brookvale Oval, and brought about a week on the sideline. It might also have been the freshen-up that he needed.
As Dylan Brown warms back into his season, I’m expecting Lane to be the beneficiary. It won’t hurt to have Jennings back beside him either.
Danger man: Cameron McInnes
If not for Damien Cook, Cameron McInnes could well be classed as one of the game’s elite. The Dragon’s hooker and captain has all the attributes needed for Origin.
Case in point, his chase on the charge down last week that completely changed the momentum of the game. It wasn’t just a good turn of pace that won the ball, it was the passion and determination to win the contest.
McInnes is a genuine attacking threat out of dummy half. His average of 5.4 runs per game yields around 61 running metres. This is double that of Reed Mahoney. Impressively, he averages 49.2 tackles per game with only 1.5 misses.
If the Dragons are victorious, their rake will have played a huge role.
Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Brad Takairangi 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. Marata Niukore 15. Daniel Alvaro 16. David Gower 17. Tepai Moeroa 18. Josh Hoffman 19. Peni Terepo 20. Jaeman Salmon 21. Andrew Davey
Dragons: 1. Corey Norman 2. Jason Saab 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Zac Lomax 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Ben Hunt 8. Blake Lawrie 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. James Graham
Interchange: 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Korbin Sims 16. Patrick Kaufusi 17. Luciano Leilua 18. Tristan Sailor 19. Josh Kerr 20. Matthew Dufty 21. Mikaele Ravalawa
Mitchell Moses vs Ben Hunt
Mitch Moses is arguably in the most consistent form of his career. He’s delivered a scattering of diamonds in past seasons, but it seems like he’s abandoned the jewellery store in favour of the director’s chair in steering the Eels to 6th place on the ladder.
That’s not to say that he can’t pull out the magic when needed. The break and kick ahead for Gutherson’s try last week will feature in Eels season highlights, but just as important was his own chase on Gutherson’s kick to force a Warriors line dropout.
In my opinion, the Eels half is playing his best football with Dylan Brown back in the team. He remains the dominant half, averaging ten more possessions than his Kiwi partner, but it seems that he’s more assured in his role with Parra’s first choice five-eighth beside him.
Ben Hunt is having a hunt of a season. He enjoyed a good patch of form followed by quality performances in Origin. The post-Origin period has been more challenging, resulting in his decision to stand down for a premiership game.
That said, the Dragon’s half didn’t earn his million dollar contract for nothing. He’s a competitor with a tremendous skill set. It might even surprise punters that he averages slightly more running metres per game than Moses.
If Hunt has a big game, the Dragons will be in this contest to their eyeballs.
And The Winner Is?
The 14th placed Dragons are favoured to beat the 6th placed Eels?
The Dragons have won one match from their last five, the Eels have won four of their last five. The Dragons were last up losers, the Eels were last up winners. In their most recent meeting, the Eels were comprehensive victors.
Apart from the Eels propensity to go missing in away games, is there anything in the team statistics to indicate a Dragon’s victory?
The Red V sit in the bottom 6 in run metres, tackle breaks, offloads and errors. Statistically, the only encouragement they can draw is that they miss far fewer tackles than Parra, averaging 25.3 misses per game to the Eels 30.6.
What the Dragons have in their favour is potential. With a star studded spine and imposing forwards, they could potentially strike form. Their season is in tatters, so the pressure is off. Perhaps they’ll free themselves from the shackles?
Or perhaps the team with the better form will get the win.
That’s my tip.
Eels 38 Dragons 16
Man of the Match – Mitch Moses