The last time these two arch rivals played, the match was separated by a single field goal in extra time. It has been five weeks since this battle but a lot has changed for both teams as the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs take on the Parramatta Eels who set their sights on playing finals football for the first time in eight years at ANZ Stadium on Thursday night.

Last Time Out

The Bulldogs where certainly up for the challenge against Penrith last Thursday. They were down 8-nil and came back into the contest with a nice individual effort from Josh Reynolds and two goals from Kerrod Holland in order to lock the scores up at 8-all at half-time. Injuries to Sam Kasiano and Adam Elliott and poor five tackle options in point scoring territory is what separated them and Penrith as they went on to record a 16-8 loss.

Parramatta had a much more difficult opponent last Friday night. They were up against a Brisbane Broncos side that were running on a high with back to back victories and a healthy position in the top four. Parramatta turned a 12-nil deficit after 12 minutes into a 28-14 victory, thanks to a brilliant running game from Bevan French and Kirisome Auva’a and brilliant game from Mitchell Moses.

30 is the Magic Number

A win against Canterbury on Thursday night will ensure that Parramatta will get a taste of finals football for the first time since 2009. The Eels are just two competition points away from hitting a season total of 30 points which is considered to be the cut off in clinching a semi final berth. Parramatta got the better of Canterbury last time they met in Round 17. It was only a Mitchell Moses field goal that could separate these two old foes. The key to the Eels five game winning streak is their defence. They haven’t conceded anymore than 16 points in their last five games. By keeping errors in their own half to a minimum and a hard running game from their forwards will be enough to topple the Bulldogs and secure their spot in the finals this year.

Hasler’s Future

The pressure is certainly mounting on Canterbury coach Des Hasler who resigned in earlier in 2017 for a further two at the Belmore based club. Bulldogs fans and some of the leading experts of the game are demanding further answers on why 2017 has been such a disappointing campaign. However the Bulldogs have come out showing their full support for Hasler who has led Canterbury to two grand final appearances in his five year reign. 2017 is the first year Hasler has not been able to guide the Bulldogs to playing September football. The criticism of the former Manly coach has been harsh and has proven to be one of the best football brains going in rugby league. With the excitement of Kieran Foran joining the club next year, the Belmore boys need to finish the season strong. In order to gain momentum and confidence heading into 2018 and to ensure the future of the top dog Des Hasler.

Prediction

The Eels are the team with all the form as they are looking to secure five victories in a row. Despite Clint Gutherson being ruled out for the rest of the season, the Eels still possess a deadly backline. The speed and athleticism of players like Bevan French, Semi Radradra and Corey Norman is enough to scare any football side when they’re on song. Points won’t come easy for Parramatta but considering their blistering form you would expect them to come away with the two competition points in a low scoring affair.

The Eels by 6

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs vs Parramatta Eels, Thursday 3 August, 7:50PM at ANZ Stadium

Squads

Bulldogs: 1. William Hopoate 2. Brett Morris 3. Josh Morris 4. Chase Stanley 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Matt Frawley 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Moses Mbye 10. James Graham 11. Josh Jackson 12. Adam Elliot 13. David Klemmer Interchange: 14. Sam Kasiano 15. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 16. Danny Fualalo 17. Michael Lichaa Reserves: 19. Francis Tualau 20. Kerrod Holland 21. Asipeli Fine 23. Brenko Lee

Eels: 1. Bevan French 2. Semi Radradra 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Kirisome Auva’a 6. Corey Norman 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Siosaia Vave 9. Cameron King 10. Tim Mannah 11. Manu Ma’u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Nathan Brown Interchange: 14. Daniel Alvaro 15. Kenny Edwards 16. Suaia Matagi 17. Peni Terepo 18. David Gower Reserves: 19. Will Smith 20. Frank Pritchard 21. Josh Hoffman