After a disappointing trip across the Tasman last Friday night, the pressure is certainly mounting on the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs to keep their finals hopes alive, as they take on a much improved Parramatta Eels side who have won three of their past four matches at ANZ stadium this Thursday.
A must win game for the Bulldogs
The Bulldogs currently sit at 13th spot on the NRL ladder with just 6 wins from 15 matches and are two wins away from the eight positioned Eels. If the Bulldogs can get over the line on Thursday night and topple the 15th placed Newcastle Knights the following weekend before their bye, it could be the spark they desperately need in order to make a magic run towards playing September football in 2017.
Key Battle – The Back Three
The Bulldogs are the best defensive side that is located in the bottom half of the ladder but defence isn’t there greatest concern. It’s their attack. They have scored just 206 points in 2017. That’s the lowest in comparison to any other team in the competition. With the return of NSW origin representative Brett Morris from a knee injury, the men in white and blue need to match the pace and tenacity of the Eels, who have a lethal back three which include Clint Gutherson, Semi Radradra & Bevan French. If Will Hopoate, Brett Morris & Marcelo Montoya can emulate the skill of the Eels back three and ease the workload of their monster forward pack. It will pave the way for the Bulldogs forwards to win the battle of attrition. Especially later on in the match when fatigue begins to settle in.
The Clint Gutherson Factor
There is no denying Gutherson’s influence in each of his side’s victories this season has been monumental. In 2017 he has made 12 line breaks and has scored nine tries. If Gutherson can replicate his man of the match round 14 performance against St George, where he posted a double and gained 214 running metres. Then the Eels could prove to be quite a handful for the visitors.
The eighth placed Eels have had two weeks to prepare for this clash and were a side down and out after round 6 with just two wins from their first six matches of the season. Since then they’ve improved immensely in their attack and have become one of the surprise packets of 2017. The game will probably be decided by the battle of forwards and could become a real arm wrestle. In a low scoring affair the Eels might just get one better on the day but it won’t be an easy task against a Bulldogs side that are looking to separate themselves from the bottom four.
The Eels by 4
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs: Will Hopoate, Brett Morris, Josh Morris, Chase Stanley, Marcelo Montoya, Josh Reynolds, Moses Mbye, Aiden Tolman, Michael Lichaa, Sam Kasiano, Josh Jackson, Adam Elliott, David Klemmer. Interchange: Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Danny Fualalo, Francis Tualau, Matt Frawley
Parramatta Eels: Clint Gutherson, Semi Radradra, Michael Jennings, Brad Takairangi, Bevan French, Corey Norman, Mitch Moses, Daniel Alvaro, Cameron King, Tim Mannah, Manu Ma’u, Kenny Edwards, Nathan Brown. Interchange: David Gower, Tepai Moeroa, Suaia Matagi, Will Smith