The Parramatta Eels will host the Newcastle Knights at ANZ Stadium in Sydney this Saturday night, a battle between two sides outside the top eight.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Eels travelled up to Brisbane last week, looking to keep their slim finals hopes alive with a win. The Broncos got off to a strong start with a brilliant bomb-kick recovery from Jamayne Isaako leading to an early 6-0 lead. Another try to the homeside gave them a 12-0 lead at half time, with the Eels failing to convert their opportunities. The Broncos seemed content with taking their foot off the pedal in the second half, while the Eels continued to create chances through the middle of the park, and almost every chance ending with an error and gifting the Broncos possession. An intercept try for George Jennings and two penalty goals was all the visitors could manage, as the Broncos won comfortably 18-10.
The Knight entered their clash with the Sharks looking to snap a three game skid. However, they were on the back foot early as a penalty awarded to the Sharks led to a third minute try for Jesse Ramien. Two more tries for the visitors put them ahead 16-6 at half time, with a Lachlan Fitzgibbon try the only silver lining for Newcastle. Matt Moylan put in arguably his best performance of the year so far, by guiding his side on attack and leading to six try assists. The second half started with the Sharks making the most of their chances, and scoring three tries in the first 10 minutes to take a strong 38-6 lead. Defensively the Knights struggled and the Sharks continued to slice through their line, with two more tries to finish them off. With very little to show for their efforts, the 48-10 drubbing is no doubt Newcastle’s low point so far this season.
Corey Norman is out this week due to suspension, with Bevan French moving to his fullback and Josh Hoffman returning on the wing.
Nathan Ross has a groin injury and is replaced by Corey Denniss. Kalyn Ponga has been named despite head issues recently, and Jacob Lillyman starts at prop for the suspended Herman Ese’ese.
With a move to his preferred fullback role, Bevan French could be a dark horse out of back field for Parramatta, sizing up against Newcastle wonder kid Kalyn Ponga and creating a key battle.
French has been rumoured to be moving on from Parramatta in 2019, but for now he remains an important piece of their backline given the injury to Jarryd Hayne and suspension to Corey Norman. Kalyn Ponga has been labelled one of the top future stars of the NRL and since the injury to Mitchell Pearce has become the go to man for the Knights since. He gave the Newcastle fans a slight scare last week after he left the field with a head injury, but was able to return and is named to start this week.
Eels coach Brad Arthur says that it has become a priority to get a win for the fans as well as the team. Arthur added that the mentality ever week has remained unchanged.
Knights forward Aidan Guerra said it is always tough to bounce back against big losses, but said the team’s focus is everyone showing up mentally.
Despite a rough few years for the Knights they have won four of the past six games against the Eels, including their last encounter last year 29-10 at ANZ Stadium.
Eels: 1 Bevan French, 2 Josh Hoffman, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Brad Takairangi, 5 George Jennings, 6 Clint Gutherson (c), 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Daniel Alvaro, 9 Cameron King, 10 Siosaia Vave, 11 Manu Ma’u, 12 Tepai Moeroa, 13 Peni Terepo Interchange: 14 Will Smith, 15 Suaia Matagi, 16 David Gower, 17 Marata Niukore Reserves: 18 Nathan Brown, 19 Kirisome Auva’a, 20 Jaeman Salmon, 21 Kane Evans
Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Sione Mata’utia, 4 Cory Denniss, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Jack Cogger, 8 Jacob Lillyman, 9 Slade Griffin, 10 Daniel Saifiti, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Mitchell Barnett, 13 Aidan Guerra (c) Interchange: 14 Danny Levi, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jamie Buhrer (c), 17 Josh King Reserves: 18 Luke Yates, 19 Brent Naden, 20 Nicholas Meaney, 21 Patrick Mata’utia
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 2nd June 2018
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kickoff: 7:35pm (AEDT)
Match Officials: Chris Sutton, Gavin Reynolds (assistant)
WHO WILL WIN?
The Knights finals credentials have plummeted with the loss of Mitchell Pearce, and their recent run of form gives a great indication to this. Parramatta showed signs of promise last week and have done so for much of the year, execution has been their weakness. At home and with, close to, nothing to lose, the Eels should produce a more rounded performance and get the victory. Eels by 4.
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