Craig Cauchi previews a top eight clash between the Parramatta Eels and St George Illawarra Dragons on Sunday afternoon at Bankwest Stadium
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Rugby League can be a funny game. After getting off to a blistering start to the season, the Eels have been waylaid with a few inconsistent performances. A few weeks back they were held scoreless against the Raiders yet managed to turn that around to the tune of a 51-6 victory over the Tigers. But the inconsistency returned against the determined Knights, coming away from the Hunter with a loss and further points to prove about their premiership credentials.
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons last month of football has been far from perfect but over that month they found a way to win each of their games. That running streak came to an end on ANZAC day against a dominant Roosters and an inexperienced team that choked under the big occasion. They found themselves down 14-0 at the break, courtesy of their own mistakes, but fought hard for an opportunity to snatch the victory at the end.
Daniel Alvaro returns to the starting side after missing the Newcastle match with a week off due to concussion. Peni Terepo moves back to the bench and Ray Stone returns to the reserves. Manu Ma’u will back up for a second week in a row after his successful return from injury in the previous round.
Parramatta Eels squad: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maiko Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Jaeman Salmon 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Daniel Alvaro 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Marata Niukore 13. Tepai Moeroa INTERCHANGE 14. Peni Terepo 15. Tim Mannah 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Manu Ma’u RESERVES 18. Ray Stone 19. Kane Evans 20. Josh Hoffman 21. George Jennings
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons have shuffled their backline decks once more and in an exciting sign for fans, Zac Lomax will begin the game in his favoured position of centre. Mikaele Ravalawa-dropped to the bench for the Roosters clash-has been reinstated as the winger. Euan Aitken has been pushed back to the bench, in a position that could see him join the forward rotation.
St George Illawarra Dragons squad: 1. Matt Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Zac Lomax 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Blake Lawrie INTERCHANGE 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Euan Aitken 16. Jacob Host 17. Luciano Leilua RESERVES 18. Mitchell Allgood 19. Jai Field 20. Lachlan Timm 21. Jonus Pearson
HEAD TO HEAD
Last years meetings between these two teams both almost went the way of the Eels, despite contrasting ladder positions. The first match the Eels were seemingly in control of until a couple of late tries-the match sealer to fullback Matt Dufty- gave the Dragons the victory. Their second encounter ended in a much more convincing result to the Eels, with Jarryd Hayne crossing for three tries in their 40-4 victory over the Dragons. It was a match where Moses and Norman combined perfectly with each other; however, this Sunday afternoon they will be opposing one another.
The biggest contributor to this match will come down to the stadium and the crowd. The first match played out of Bankwest Stadium was a fantastic event for all those involved and resulted in a big occasion game. The Eels were up for it and, seemingly encouraged by the support, were able to find extra dimensions to their performance. The Dragons, while just coming off playing ANZAC day, will have it against them at Bankwest Stadium. If they haven’t learnt from their previous match, then they will be up against it when they enter hostile territory. A lot will be made this week about Corey Norman returning to play against the club that moved him on and especially with his battle against Mitchell Moses. Expect big games from both players as they’ll be eager to get one over the other.
Both teams have the engine room and direction to grab control of the match. And if we are in for another close encounter between two of the top teams, then it will come down to the spark the back three can provide in opening the sets and finishing off plays. The Eels back three have been fantastic. Blake Ferguson has been in great form since arriving at the Eels and Clint Gutherson is a constant threat. Add to that the size of Maika Sivo out wide and they are hard to handle. Match that against the Dragons, whose wingers certainly punch well above their weight and the pace and excitement of Dufty, who provides that x-factor to a match. Their issue is the inexperience that came up with some crucial errors in the match against the Roosters. If all outside backs can do their jobs properly and support their team, this match will go down to the final second.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Referee: Ashley Klein, Chris Butler
WHO WILL WIN?
This match is up for grabs and which ever team comes with the greatest drive and energy will escape this one with the two points. You have to think that the Eels have a great advantage with playing at home but the Dragons have proved themselves resilient so far this year. Both teams will be looking to avoid back-to-back losses and desperate to keep some space between the bottom half of the ladder. Dragons by 8.