The Parramatta Eels will be desperate to restore some pride when they take on an injury-riddled Newcastle Knights side on Friday night at McDonald Jones Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After convincing losses to the Melbourne Storm and Canterbury Bulldogs in Rounds 15 and 16 respectively, the Knights have dropped out of finals contention. They will be looking to return to the form that they showed in the early rounds of 2018 and string some wins together to build confidence at the business end of the season.
Despite the wealth of talent within their roster, the Eels have only managed to muster three wins in 2018. Sitting just two points shy of the 14th and 15th placed Canterbury Bulldogs and North Queensland Cowboys, the Eels will no doubt be motivated to secure a win over a depleted Knights side to edge themselves off the bottom of the NRL ladder and salvage what is left of 2018.
For the first time since round seven, the Knights have named Mitchell Pearce at halfback. The return of their prized off-season recruit pushes Jack Cogger to the reserves. The injuries sustained in Round 15 by Kalyn Ponga (hamstring) and Slade Griffin (knee) have provided debutant Nick Meaney and Danny Levi the opportunity to line-up at fullback and hooker, respectively, with Nathan Ross resultantly being recalled to the interchange bench. The return of front rower Daniel Saifiti (foot) has prompted coach Nathan Brown to shift Herman Ese’ese to lock, Aidan Guerra to the second row and young Sam Stone to the reserves list.
The Eels have made just one change to their line up for Friday night’s clash against the Knights, with Tepai Moeroa returning from suspension to take Will Smith’s place on the interchange bench.
Whilst the Newcastle Knights have had aspects of brilliance in both attack and defence in 2018, it has been nothing but frustration for the supporters of the struggling Parramatta Eels.
When considering the number of Knights players that are currently sidelined with injury, the loss of teenage sensation Kalyn Ponga and hooker Slade Griffin has dampened what has already been a rough month for the boys from Newcastle. The return of halfback Mitchell Pearce from a pectoral injury, however, will increase the level of structure in attack and cohesiveness in defence. It is anticipated that if the Knights’ forwards are able to dominate and charge down the middle of the field in the early exchanges of the match, debutant Nick Meaney (fullback) will be given a license to utilise his footwork and speed to devastate the Eels’ tiring defensive structures.
Off the back of a frustrating, last-minute two-point loss to the St George-Illawarra Dragons in Round 15, the Eels will be hoping to improve their consistency across the full eighty minutes, their error rate and handling of the ball. For the Eels to secure the two points, it is imperative that forwards Daniel Alvaro and Siosaia Vave follow the lead of their workhorse lock Nathan Brown. Regardless of how dire the situation, Brown never takes a backward step and is always willing to take the tough carries and get the Eels’ sets started. Halves Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman, together with fullback Clint Gutherson, have the potential to cause an upset if they use their experience and specifically target the Knights’ vulnerable left edge defence.
The Newcastle Knights have convincingly beaten the Parramatta Eels in their last two clashes, winning 30-4 and 29-10.
Newcastle Knights: 1 Nick Meaney, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Sione Mata’utia, 4 Cory Denniss, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Mitchell Pearce (c), 8 Josh King, 9 Danny Levi, 10 Daniel Saifiti, 11 Mitch Barnett, 12 Aidan Guerra, 13 Herman Ese’ese. Interchange: 14 Nathan Ross, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jamie Buhrer (c), 17 Jacob Lillyman. Reserves: 18 Luke Yates, 19 Sam Stone, 20 Jack Cogger, 21 JJ Felise.
Parramatta Eels: 1 Clint Gutherson (c), 2 Bevan French, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Jarryd Hayne, 5 George Jennings, 6 Corey Norman, 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Daniel Alvaro, 9 Cameron King, 10 Siosaia Vave, 11 Marata Niukore, 12 Brad Takairangi, 13 Nathan Brown. Interchange: 14 Tepai Moeroa, 15 Tim Mannah (c), 16 David Gower, 17 Peni Terepo. Reserves: 18 Kane Evans, 19 Kirisome Auva’a, 20 Jaeman Salmon, 21 Kaysa Pritchard.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday, July 13 2018
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Kick-off: 7:55pm (AEST)
WHO WILL WIN?
With both teams now playing for nothing but pride, it is anticipated that this game will be a high scoring match, with plenty of attacking brilliance on display. Whilst the Knights will show plenty of fight, expect the relatively unchanged Eels line-up to hit their straps and run over the top of the boys from Newcastle.
Eels by 8