Date: Friday, August 16, 2019
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Parramatta
Kick Off: 6:00pm
Referees: Peter Gough, Gavin Badger
Head-to-head: Played 19 Eels 7 Titans 11 Drawn 1
Odds: Eels $1.33 Titans $3.40
Broadcast: Fox League, Kayo
Last Four Encounters:
Eels 20 Titans 12 ANZ Stadium (2018)
Eels 30 Titans 8 ANZ Stadium (2017)
Titans 26 Eels 14 Robina Stadium (2017)
Titans 34 Eels 14 Robina Stadium (2016)
The Warm Up
Last week I posed the question: “Have the Eels turned the corner in the consistency stakes?”
On the strength of a composed victory over the Knights, supporters could be leaning towards an affirmative answer.
But the latter rounds of a rugby league season can deliver as many heartaches as a rose bearing Bachelor – the simile gushing type.
So perhaps an away match against the cellar dwelling team, with the weight of expectation sitting heavily on their shoulders, might be a very valuable guide as to the headspace of our Eels.
The Titans have been bashed from pillar to post this season. The media have questioned their long term viability in the premiership, and the players have expressed uncertainty about their future at the club.
With both hands firmly clenching the spoon, and confidence at a low ebb, they seem primed for a heavy loss. On the other hand, those circumstances could free them up to play unfettered footy.
The likes of Brimson, Kelly, Peachy and Arrow can all be game breakers on their day. There’s also an injection of youth to lift them.
That’s the maybes.
The facts are that the Eels have the form that warrants favouritism. They’ve improved their defence from their season average of 22 points per game, to averaging just 13 points against across their last three matches.
With their confidence at the polar opposite to the Titans, this is a match for the Eels to flex some finals footy muscle.
Having a Punt
Having watched the surprise arrival of Maika’s father at Eels training last week, I couldn’t help but tip two tries against the Knights for our Fijian Finisher. We did come up one try short, but I haven’t given up on the Maika Money just yet.
The NSW TAB have a special Sivo market this week. You can take him to score any of the first three tries at the tempting odds of $3.50. Oh yeah baby. Get on! (Gamble responsibly…)
The favourites in the first try scorer market are:
Eels: Sivo $8 Takairangi $10
Titans: Arthars $13 Sami $13
Feed Your Footy Brain
The Eels have only beaten the Titans four times since 2012. Over that period they’ve registered just one victory at the Gold Coast. Indeed, in the history of the two clubs, the Eels have only ever won twice on the Coast.
On a positive note, the Eels have won the two most recent clashes between the teams.
Tracking: Maika Sivo
How good was it to see Maika’s father Joeli on the sidelines at BankWest Stadium last Saturday!
As BA noted in the press conference, the big surprise occurred at Old Saleyards after the Captain’s Run. It was incredibly moving.
How far has Maika come this year?
He was a standout talent in Sydney Shield and Ron Massey Cup before hitting the Panthers NSW Cup squad in 2018. But an injured shoulder derailed the back end of last season and resulted in a preseason spent in rehab.
It was funny watching him in opposed sessions towards the latter part of the pre-season – before he was out of the orange shirt (no contact). His carries were often at full pace and he had to be reminded that the defenders only had to grab him.
And what a rookie season Sivo is enjoying!
Besides currently sitting on top of the NRL try scorers list with 16 tries from 19 games, the 108kg winger averages 147 metres from 14.3 runs – generating 2.9 tackle breaks per game.
Imagine what could be possible from a full pre-season!
Danger man: Tyrone Peachey
Make no mistake, Tyrone Peachey is a quality player. The 93kg utility has not found his groove on the Gold Coast, but the 2018 Blues representative has the potential to turn a match on its head.
There’s nothing wrong with his 2019 averages (84 running metres, 1.9 tackle breaks, 0.6 offloads). Equally, there’s also nothing outstanding about them. He’s probably a victim of the Titans being unable to find his best position, but you don’t need a long memory to recall his capacity to break tackles.
This week he finds himself in the halves, and that could spell trouble for the Eels. He’ll get more possessions and more opportunities in that role. Perhaps having that involvement will spark him into action.
He’s a player that can’t be taken lightly.
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. Peni Terepo 15. David Gower 16. Daniel Alvaro 17. Marata Niukore 18. Tepai Moeroa 19. George Jennings 20. Stefano Utoikamanu 21. Will Smith
Titans: 1. Alexander Brimson 2. Jesse Arthars 3. Kallum Watkins 4. Brian Kelly 5.Phillip Sami 6. Tyrone Peachey 7. Ryley Jacks 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Mitch Rein 10. Jai Whitbread 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Sam Stone 13. Jai Arrow
Interchange: 14. Michael Gordon 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 16. Bryce Cartwright 17. Brenko Lee 18. Anthony Don 19. Tanah Boyd 20. Leilani Latu 21. Nathan Peats
Nathan Brown vs Jai Arrow
Cyborg vs Bowen – this could be one of the defining personal duels in the match.
Brown’s presence in the middle has undoubtedly toughened the Eels defence. He’s produced big defensive plays when the Eels have needed a lift, then matched that aggression with fearless carries in attack.
His possessions to runs ratio (19.7 to 14.4) underlines the ball skills that he provides for he team, whilst the 122.8 running metres emphasise that he’s also prepared to make the tough carries.
Watching Brown at training, it’s evident that he’s taking on a leadership role within the Eels squad. An aggressive, skilled, tough, leader – that sounds like a recipe for success for the Eels pack.
Jai Arrow has stood tall despite the team’s poor season. Injury has restricted him to 13 appearances this year, so the Titans have unquestionably been impacted by his absence.
In attack, Arrow averages 137.2 running metres, with 1.4 offloads and 1.9 tackle breaks per game. In defence, the Maroons representative has maintained just on 90% tackle efficiency despite the Titans struggles.
The talented forward would be one of the few Titans in hot demand on the open market.
The Eels will be certain to pay him plenty of respect.
And The Winner Is
The Eels played semi-final football in their victory over the Knights. What brand of footy can we expect this week?
I’d like to believe that they’ll play to a similar formula this week. Gain dominance through the middle, work for territory via a strong kicking game, exert pressure via high completions and good line speed in defence, then take advantage of what that produces.
I’m not being misled by table positions. Nor am I expecting Parra to try to play expansive footy without earning it. That’s hardly good preparation for finals footy.
It’s difficult to predict the Titans game plan. Perhaps they’ll look to the tactics used successfully by Eels’ opponents this season – punching into the middle and working for very fast play the balls. They seem to have their greatest strength in their pack so this would make sense.
There’ll be no wild scores in my prediction.
Eels to win.
Eels 28 Titans 16
Man of the Match – Mitch Moses