In the Eels last home game at Pirtek Stadium before it’s demolished, they’ll look to give their fans something to smile about as they take on a St George team that is playing for pride as well as looking to the future with the dropping of Benji Marshall from first grade.

Last Time Out

Given absolutely no hope of winning, the Parramatta Eels got off to a flying start against the Canberra Raiders, taking a 16-0 lead within the first 20 minutes. The return of powerhouse winger Semi Radradra made a huge impact on their attack scoring a try, setting one up for Bevan French, making 3 line breaks and running for 212m. Despite this red-hot start they weren’t able to shut the Raiders down for too long, who fought back to claim the match 28-18. Brenko Lee scored 4 tries as Jarrod Croker exploited the poor defence of Vai Toutai to get away 3 try assists. It was disappointing to throw away a lead like that but the fact they were ever able to take the lead in the first place made it a performance full of spirit and enthusiasm that they could take some satisfaction from.

The St George Dragons looked nothing like the team that had recorded a comprehensive win over the Sharks the week before as they were smashed 42-6 by a resurgent Sydney Roosters side. Their attack was ineffectual and their defence crumbled in the 2nd half conceding 4 tries in a space of 11 minutes. It was an extremely disappointing match for the Dragons that hit hard with a dose of reality and coach Paul McGregor had no choice but to respond to mounting pressure and drop Benji Marshall from the team. This opens the door for young Drew Hutchison to play his first game of the year in what may be his only opportunity to impress this season with Benji being promised a farewell game next week.

Key Battle

The forward packs. One of the factors influencing the Eels repeated ability to compete in games despite having nothing to play for is the enthusiasm and leadership of their forward pack. Players like Danny Wicks, Kenny Edwards and Manu Mau continue to rip in and run hard each and every week. This in turn has allowed the makeshift halves combination of Clint Gutherson and Jeff Robson to come up with attacking opportunities and post a fair few points over the last couple of rounds. The return of Beau Scott should see an improvement in their defence and the Eels will benefit from his leadership as well.

In contrast the Dragons forward pack has rarely been able to dominate opposition teams this year and against the Roosters they were simply trodden over. With the continued absence of Tariq Sims and an injury to Russell Packer ruling him out this week, the forwards situation isn’t going to get any better. It just means the likes of Mike Cooper and Jack De Belin will have to step up and really provide a lot of go forward up the middle. They can defend well and tackle for days but to win this game the Dragons need to be moving forward not jogging backwards. If they can keep up a good completion rate and make their metres it puts the Dragons in good position to spoil the Eels party and cause an upset.

Prediction

The opportunity given to young half Drew Hutchison could spark a little life in the Dragons but given he reportedly hasn’t made much of an impact in reserve grade it may just be wishful thinking for the fans. Despite the horrid season the Eels have endured, Brad Arthur has continued to demonstrate he can motivate his men to perform well. They can’t maintain it for a full game as their match against the Raiders showed but against the Dragons it should be more than enough to get the win and send their fans home happy. The crowd at Pirtek will get them up for this one. Eels by 12+ points

Squads
Parramatta Eels
1. Bevan French
2. Semi Radradra
3. Michael Jennings
4. Brad Takairangi
5. Michael Gordon
6. Clint Gutherson
7. Jeff Robson
8. Danny Wicks
9. Isaac De Gois
10. Tim Mannah
11. Manu Ma’u
12. Tepai Moeroa
13. Beau Scott ©
Interchange:
14. Kaysa Pritchard
15. Kenny Edwards
16. Peni Terepo
17. Daniel Alvaro
18. David Gower

St George Illawarra Dragons
1. Josh Dugan
2. Kurt Mann
3. Euan Aitken
4. Tim Lafai
5. Jason Nightingale
6. Gareth Widdop ©
7. Drew Hutchinson
8. Leeson Ah Mau
9. Mitch Rein
10. Mike Cooper
11. Tyson Frizell
12. Joel Thompson
13. Jack de Belin
Interchange:
14. Will Matthews
15. Jacob Host
16. Jake Marketo
17. Luciano Leilua