Date: Sunday, September 15, 2019
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta
Kick Off: 4:05pm
Referees: Ben Cummins, Grant Atkins
Head-to-head: Played 58 Eels 22 Broncos 34 Drawn 2
Odds: Eels $1.50 Broncos $2.65
Broadcast: Nine, Fox League, Kayo
Last Four Encounters:
Broncos 17 Eels 16 Suncorp Stadium (2019)
Eels 38 Broncos 10 Bankwest Stadium (2019)
Broncos 18 Eels 10 Suncorp Stadium (2018)
Eels 52 Broncos 34 Suncorp Stadium (2017)
The Warm Up
What is this strange sensation, my fellow Eels fans?
For me it’s the satisfaction of reaching finals football for only the second time since 2009.
But it’s a feeling that I don’t want one single Eels player to be experiencing. These blokes don’t need to be having any sense of being pleased about their season. I want them to be hungry about winning.
Successful teams expect to be playing at this time of year, and they put in the hard work to get there. But when the Top 8 has been sorted, such clubs find another gear and that’s what we need from Parra from this point onwards.
So, it’s back to the proverbial one match at a time.
This Sunday poses many questions:
Will moments of brilliance from Broncos forwards steal victory?
Can the Eels forwards contain the best young pack in the premiership?
Are the Broncos halves capable of providing any direction?
Is Mitch Moses ready for finals footy?
Has Corey Oates recovered from his shocker at this ground?
What impact will the Bankwest Stadium Eels crowd have on this match?
Given the importance of winning the middle, the suspension of Kane Evans could be significant. With that said, the Eels have a healthy roster and have no excuses around covering for his absence.
Home ground advantage, last up form, cohesive spine – there’s plenty in the plus column for the Eels. The bookies see it the same way. Will the players follow Arthur’s instructions and back themselves?
Conversely, forwards win big matches and the Broncos have a major tick in that column.
Make some noise Eels faithful. There’s no second chances.
Having a Punt
It was a return to the glory days for the punting tip last week, absolutely romping in with selecting an Eels win coupled with over 38.5 total match points. We reaped the sweet odds of $2.90 on that, so let’s stick with that market again this week.
Take Parra to win coupled with over 40.5 total match points @$2.70.
If, like me, you think that the Eels can cover a 5.5 points start to the Broncos, you can couple that with the over 40.5 total match points and bump the return up to $3.80. How sweet does that look!
The first try scorer favourites for each team are listed below:
Eels – Sivo $7, Ferguson $9
Broncos – Oates $9, Isaako $12
Feed Your Footy Brain
The Broncos finished the regular season as the only team in the Top 8 to post a negative points differential (-57). Even the Tigers and the Knights boasted a better for and against than Brisbane.
Nevertheless, Parramatta cannot rest easy on their laurels. Though the Broncos had the worst defence of any top 8 team (489 points), the Eels didn’t fare much better in leaking 473 points.
Tracking: Blake Ferguson
I focussed on Blake Ferguson when these two teams last met, and apart from an error or two, he delivered a spectacular try and should have posted a second.
It’s been a mixed bag for Fergo since he returned from injury. Mercurial moments have been interspersed with handling errors. At 1.6 errors per game, his numbers are by far the highest of any of the Eels top 17.
When the ball is hoisted to his corner, I have all the confidence in the world. But if it’s on the ground, or in contact, my heart creeps into my mouth.
On the plus side, Ferguson has averaged 157.1 running metres per game, second only to Gutherson (161.3) and more than Sivo (146.9). His 2.8 tackle breaks per match is only bettered by Sivo (3.1).
Big matches are Fergo’s jam. He thrives at this time of year. You know he will be pumped for this and bringing the confidence and energy to his team mates.
Expect something special.
Danger man: David Fifita
Eels fans would still be having nightmares about David Fifita after our last match against Brisbane. That barnstorming run during extra time became the difference between winning and losing.
It might surprise people that his average running metres sit below 100 metres (92.8), though this is probably reflective of his role in the team. Strangely, he is only required to carry the ball less than ten times per game.
But the damage is still being done on the opposition.
Those runs draw in the defenders, and he creates havoc with every charge – clocking up an impressive 3.5 tackle breaks per game, second only to Payne Haas. His season high of 14 tackle breaks in a single game incredibly betters Haas’ high of 10.
In footballing terms, Fifita is still a novice.
His potential is frightening.
Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 15. Daniel Alvaro 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Manu Ma’u 13. Nathan Brown
Interchange: 14. Brad Takairangi 16. Ray Stone 17. Marata Niukore 18. Tepai Moeroa 19. Will Smith 20. Peni Terepo 21. Josh Hoffman
* Replacement for Evans and final list not confirmed.
Broncos: 1. Anthony Milford 2. Corey Oates 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Alex Glenn 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Darius Boyd 7. Jake Turpin 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Payne Haas 11. David Fifita 12. Matt Gillett 13. Joe Ofahengaue
Interchange: 14. James Segeyaro 15. Thomas Flegler 16. Gehamat Shibasaki 17. Patty Carrigan 18.Rhys Kennedy 19. Izaia Perese 20. Shaun Fensom 21. Cory Paix
Dylan Brown vs Darius Boyd
The rookie vs the veteran. The natural half vs the manufactured half.
Dylan Brown took another step on his NRL journey in what was unquestionably his best performance of the year against Manly.
A key component of a lethal left side attack, Brown kept the pressure on Manly’s defence with his probing runs, pass selection and kicking game.
With only 13 first grade games on his resume, Brown’s confidence on the eve of the finals would have pleased Arthur and the rest of the team. The young Kiwi has always enjoyed the physical aspects of the game with his strong defence and courageous carries (he averages 69.1 running metres per game). After returning from a long injury break in the second half of the season, it appears that Brown has now re-engaged the left side combinations in the Eels attack.
Conversely, the experienced Boyd is about to clock up game 320 of his illustrious career. Though roundly criticised for his 2019 form, both at fullback and in the halves, the Origin veteran produced his best football of the season when he last faced the Eels.
As a senior Bronco, Boyd should be expected to bring the composure and the direction for his young forward pack. He’s used to playing at this time of year. The ball is in his court.
And The Winner Is
The Eels went into their last meeting with the Broncos as pronounced underdogs. On the back of some dubious calls, Brisbane got the spoils in a golden point thriller.
Refereeing decisions aside, the Eels were not at their best that night. They gifted the Broncos a platform for victory by committing too many errors.
This time, the Eels are the bookies pick at a sold out Bankwest Stadium.
The statistics back up the favouritism.
Parramatta finished the season second in run metres, first in offloads, first in hit up metres and third in total metres gained. Their completion percentages improved to finish 6th overall. And in Mitch Moses, they have the leading player for try assists.
Against that, on the back of a powerful forward pack, the Broncos finished first in tackle breaks. They also climbed the ladder in dummy half runs to finish fifth in this metric.
There’s no guessing where they’ll play this game and what the Eels will need to do to beat them.
And beat them, they will.
Eels 34 Broncos 16
Man of the Match – Mitch Moses