Date: Saturday, August 10, 2019
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta
Kick Off: 5:30pm
Referees: Adam Gee, Jon Stone
Head-to-head: Played 53 Eels 21 Newcastle 30 Drawn 2
Odds: Eels $1.65 Knights $2.30
Broadcast: Foxtel, Kayo
Last Four Encounters:
Knights 28 Eels 14 McDonald Jones Stadium (2019)
Knights 18 Eels 16 McDonald Jones Stadium (2018)
Knights 30 Eels 4 ANZ Stadium (2018)
Knights 29 Eels 10 ANZ Stadium (2017)
The Warm Up
Have the Eels turned the corner in the consistency stakes?
With the team sitting 6th on the table, and having been in the top 8 at the conclusion of every round this year, is that even a fair question to ask?
Obviously opinions have been coloured by a few diabolical performances away from home – the Storm, the Sharks, and the Sea Eagles come to mind.
What was that other ordinary effort? If you replied with the Knights, go to the top of the class.
If ever the Eels coaches needed to remind their team about the impact of a slow start, they need look no further than the Knights clash in Newcastle.
And there’s another parallel.
Back in Round 7, the Knights were in diabolical form. They had just been trounced by the Titans and it looked like their season was about to be over before it had barely begun.
Then, on the back of an inspired Mitchell Pearce performance, they out enthused a lethargic Eels team, then went on a winning streak which saw Knights players selected in Origin and the team discussed as a premiership threat.
Unfortunately for the Hunter boys, those times seem a distant memory and once again they’re looking desperate for a win, followed by a winning streak, to qualify for finals football.
Will the Eels oblige or will they end the Knights season?
The answer to that will say plenty about Parra’s credentials this year.
Having a Punt
Points were much harder to come by last week, and consequently the suggested punt was well off. Who knew there could be less than 20 total match points in an Eels fixture?
This week I’m going to shoot for longer odds and tip Maika Sivo to score two or more tries at odds of $5.50. I tipped this earlier in the season and it was a referee’s knock on call that denied the sweetest of collects.
For a bit of variety I’ll also suggest the first half line/over under double. Take Parra giving 1.5 start coupled with over 20.5 first half points @$3.60.
The favourites in the first try scorer market are:
Eels: Sivo $9 Takairangi $11
Knights: Mann $12 Kenny-Dowall $12
Feed Your Footy Brain
The history books record only two Eels wins from their past 13 starts against the Knights. That includes no wins in the last four clashes.
If we starting talking Eels hoodoo teams, the Knights can probably stake their claim.
Can you sense a however on the horizon?
Here it is.
The draws and the stadium rebuild has meant that the Eels have only played two matches at Parramatta in that time. They were both losses, but we have to go back to 2014 for the last time that the two clubs met in Parramatta.
It’s fair to say that the Eels have taken to BankWest Stadium with a passion. Will that also mean an end to the “hoodoo”?
Tracking: Kane Evans
“Kane Enabled” Baby!
The much hyped acquisition for 2018 looked anything but a first grade player in his first season with the Eels.
How things have changed in twelve months!
The Fijian international prop has added aggression and a point of difference to the Eels pack in 2019.
And for those who were unaware, big Kane was sin-binned for using “excessive force” against the Dragons last weekend. Yes, the absurd became reality in the NRL when a player was penalised for putting on a terrific and legal defensive shot.
In basic terms, the improvement in Evans has come from simplifying his game. The big fella is running hard, hitting hard and eliminating crazy offloads. It’s as if he’s suddenly realised that he’s got the size to make an impact.
Long may it continue.
Danger man: Mitchell Pearce
Mitchell Pearce is a quality half. He was easily the best player on the field in the Knights Round 7 victory over the Eels, and a string of man of the match performances were crucial in Newcastle’s subsequent winning streak.
The payoff for Pearce was a Blues jumper in the Origin decider.
A drop off in form post-Origin with the Knights falling off the pace in the battle for the Top 8.
I don’t see any weaknesses in Pearce’s skill set. In my opinion, the question marks hang over his level of involvement.
It’s up to the Eels to ensure that he doesn’t dictate terms like he did earlier this year.
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. Greg Lelesiuao 19. Peni Terepo 20. Jaeman Salmon 21. Stefano Utoikamanu
Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Kurt Mann 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Tautau Moga 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Mason Lino 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Connor Watson 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Tim Glasby
Interchange: 14.Jacob Saifiti 15. James Gavet 16. Sione Mata’utia 17. Aidan Guerra 18. Jamie Buhrer 19. Beau Fermor 20. Jirah Momoisea 21. Danny Levi
Connor Watson vs Reed Mahoney
How important is Reed Mahoney to the Eels?
We all know the defensive numbers which he produces, but over the last two weekends we’ve been given a serious look into what he provides to the Parramatta spine.
When the Eels rake was rested just before and after half time, the team’s attack became disjointed – I believe “clunky” is the preferred term these days.
Unquestionably, the dummy half service from “Cash” has gone unnoticed by most punters. It’s efficient, and because Reed isn’t renowned for dashes from the ruck, he attracts few headlines – except for his defensive workload.
In contrast, Connor Watson has been a revelation when injected into dummy half for the Knights. His acceleration is not unlike that of Damien Cook, and if the Eels allow quick play the balls, there could be trouble ahead.
And The Winner Is?
The Eels received little credit for last week’s victory over the Dragons. After establishing early dominance, the Blue and Golds were expected to put the Red V to the sword.
Instead, the match became an arm wrestle, albeit one without too many jabs thrown by the home team.
Undoubtedly, the Eels lost some impact when Paulo and Evans left the field. It wasn’t a case of the interchange performing poorly. Rather, they couldn’t deliver the same power as the starting props.
What impressed me about the win was that it never seemed in doubt.
If the Eels forwards can establish dominance over the Knights, Parra have the firepower from 1-7 to pile on some points. Line speed and slowing the play the ball will be crucial.
The Knights will be looking to break up the Eels line to provide maximum opportunities for their proven match-winner. If you’ve forgotten his name, wait for the commentators to start drooling whenever it’s uttered. (No disrespect to Ponga, he’s a rare talent).
I’m strangely confident about the result. I hope I’m right.
Eels 32 Knights 14
Man of the Match – Mitch Moses