Parramatta and Newcastle clash at ANZ Stadium for the first time since the memorable 2001 Grand Final where Andrew Johns lead the Knights to a famous victory. On that night both sides dreamt of Grand Final Glory but 16 years on its Parramatta who are starting to give their fans hope that their premiership drought could be coming to an end, whilst Newcastle are solely focused on avoiding the wooden spoon.
Last Time Out
Parramatta continued their impressive hot streak notching up win number six on the trot with a solid display against the Bulldogs. In wet conditions Brad Arthur’s men played with great control and tough defence, knowing lateral ball movement would be difficult The Eels forwards took it upon themselves to lead the way up the middle and it showed as Parramatta dominated both field position and possession. Arthur has done a great job all season getting the best out of his ‘no frills’ forward pack and they put in another ‘team’ effort on Thursday with seven of their big men running for over 100 metres against a Bulldogs pack boasting several rep players. Mitch Moses continues to get better since his move from Wests Tigers laying on a try for Bevan French and his defence was also solid with just the one miss tackle.
Newcastle also come into this game on a winning streak after securing back to back wins for the first time since late 2015 after beating a hapless Warriors outfit 26-10 in Newcastle. The Young Knights again started very strong putting on two tries in the first 10 minutes thanks to a Mitch Barnett double and were rarely troubled throughout the match despite losing Key Fullback Nathan Ross early in the 2nd half with a broken back. The difference of late for Newcastle has been the ability of their young players to put together multiple good games and like they did against the Dragons Daniel Saifiti laid the platform up front and Brock Lamb added the touch of class setting up two tries, three line breaks and also backing up for a well deserved try to seal the game. Lamb has now put together two MOTM performances in a row and is starting to look comfortable at NRL level.
How They Win
Parramatta are peaking at the right time of year riding their six-game winning streak and in this game momentum is everything so Brad Arthur will be wary not to let his side get complacent knowing a slip up here could halt the momentum they’ve built up during this hot streak. Parramatta play simple football they run hard, tackle hard and make minimal errors which allows them to enjoy good field position for their classy halves combination of Moses and Corey Norman to attack and with the class and speed out wide of Semi Radradra and Michael Jennings there’s plenty of points to be had. Brad Arthur will know if Parramatta stick to the fundamentals that has served them well so far this season they should win.
Nathan Brown will enjoy for the first time as Knights coach preparing a side with the confidence that comes from winning two games in a row, although they’ve played well all season it’s hard to build confidence on the back of long losing streaks but the last two weeks have shown Brown’s young men their hard work is paying off. Newcastle will again come out firing and will look for a fast start which they’ve enjoyed over the last fortnight, if they can jump to an early lead they might be able to throw the Eels off their game and they’ve shown they’re capable of playing out the full 80 minutes now which was a problem earlier this season. Newcastle will likely target Mitch Moses in defence running Sione Mata’utia and Mitch Barnett at him at every opportunity, although Moses has improved his defence since joining the Eels mid-season Newcastle will know he doesn’t always make the best decision when teams run multiple bodies at him.
It’s hard to go pass Parramatta as they ride this six-game winning streak and with a Top four spot up for grabs they have plenty to play for. The biggest threat to Parramatta is complacency and if they start thinking ahead to next week be sure Newcastle will be there to take advantage, but with The Eels playing so well of late this shouldn’t be an issue. Newcastle will come out strong in search of their first away win in two years but I expect Parramatta to be too strong winning by 10 points.
Parramatta should welcome back second rower Tepai Moeroa after he missed last week with Kenny Edwards returning to the bench and Frank Pritchard dropping out. There has been some talk of Bevan French and Corey Norman being under an injury cloud so Brad Arthur has named Josh Hoffman and Will Smith in his 21-man squad.
Newcastle suffered a massive injury blow on the weekend losing Fan Favourite Nathan Ross to a season ending back injury, Dane Gagai looks like he will play his final four games for Newcastle in the Number 1 jersey after Nathan Brown indicated as much during the week. Newcastle will welcome back Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Joe Wardle after they both were late scratching last week, they’ll make up a new look right side attack for Newcastle after Chanel Mata’utia was dropped.
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 14. Daniel Alvaro 15. Kenny Edwards 16. Suaia Matagi 17. Peni Terepo 18. David Gower 19. Will Smith 20. Frank Pritchard 21. Josh Hoffman
Knights: 1. Dane Gagai 2. Ken Sio 3. Joe Wardle 4. Peter Mata’utia 5. Shaun Kenny-dowall 6. Brock Lamb 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Jamie Buhrer 10. Josh King 11. Sione Mata’utia 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Danny Levi 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Sam Stone 17. Luke Yates 18. Jack Cogger 19. Mickey Paea 20. Brendan Elliott 21. Chanel Mata’utia
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