The Parramatta Eels will take on the Canberra Raiders at Pirtek Stadium on Saturday afternoon hoping to avenge last week’s last-minute loss to the Panthers.

The Eels have started the season in impressive fashion, playing well amidst boardroom turmoil. Boasting the 2nd best defence in the competition, the Eels will have to keep out a Raiders team who have amassed an impressive 117 points despite missing their halves for a large portion of the opening rounds.

Nathan Peats returns for the Eels at number 9, while Daniel Alvaro comes into the side for David Gower.

For the Raiders, Luke Bateman makes his first appearance for the season after impressing in the NSW Cup for the Mounties. He replaces Sia Soliola who fractured his right arm against the Bulldogs.

LAST TIME OUT

Parramatta conceded a try, seconds from full time to lose 20-18 to the Panthers. Canberra bound prop, Junior Paulo was impressive, scoring his second try in two games and will no doubt want to impress his new employers. Brad Takairangi also impressed, creating havoc down the right edge but his winger, Gutherson, let him down a few times with his positioning. The Eels probably did enough to win that game but weren’t clinical enough against the Panthers.

The Raiders went to Belmore and won in style. As has been the case so far this season, the Raiders stormed out of the blocks to gain an early lead. In previous matches this season, the 20-minute period after the break has been Canberra’s downfall. This time, although not playing their best, their try line defence was impressive and they managed a memorable 22-8 win. Aidan Sezer was instrumental to the win, his kicks to the Bulldogs’ right edge were accurate and relentless.

KEY BATTLE

There are so many interesting matchups in this game. Junior Paulo v Shannon Boyd. The halves battle between Norman and Foran v Austin and Sezer. As well as the monster centres in Takairangi and Lailua. However, the battle between the wingers could be the deciding factor.

Semi Radradra has made a lot of headlines recently regarding his decision to represent Australia and the Blues over Fiji. He has had a quiet start this season by his lofty standards, with only two tries so far this season. However, he has done plenty of hard work running an average of 132 meters a game so far.

Jordan Rapana has had to be at his best to keep the experienced Sisa Waqa out of the side.  He had a great game against the Bulldogs, carrying the ball 158m and producing a spectacular flick pass that saw Aidan Sezer run almost the length of the field before being tackled two meters from the try line.

With both sides having impressive forward packs and halves, whichever winger can get on top could give their side the edge.

PREDICTION

The Eels have been stingy in defence but their backline combinations don’t look quite right. Takairangi and Gutherson aren’t combining, and considering that Jennings doesn’t pass the ball as much, Brad Arthur might have his centres on the wrong side of the field. The Eels also struggled against the running game of Bryce Cartwright, things won’t be easier for them against the Raiders. Josh Papalii could cause havoc.

The Raiders looked a rejuvenated side with their playmakers back in the side. It won’t be an easy game for them but I think they will start the game strongly and just manage to hold the Eels at bay.

Raiders by 6

LINEUPS

Eels: 1 Michael Gordon 2 Semi Radradra 3 Michael Jennings 4 Brad Takairangi 5 Clinton Gutherson 6 Corey Norman 7 Kieran Foran 8 Junior Paulo 9 Nathan Peats 10 Daniel Alvaro 11 Manu Ma’u 12 Beau Scott 13 Tepai Moeroa Interchange: 14 Isaac De Gois 15 Peni Terepo 16 Danny Wicks 17 Kenny Edwards

Raiders: 1 Jack Wighton 2 Edrick Lee 3 Jarrod Croker 4 Joseph Leilua 5 Jordan Rapana 6 Blake Austin 7 Aidan Sezer 8 Shannon Boyd 9 Josh Hodgson 10 Frank Paul Nuuausala 11 Josh Papalii 12 Elliot Whitehead 13 Shaun Fensom Interchange: 14 Kurt Baptiste 15 Luke Bateman 16 Paul Vaughan 17 Joseph Tapine