The Parramatta Eels take on the Penrith Panthers at the first battle of the west at Bankwest Stadium. Jem Nash previews…
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Eels are coming off a disappointing seven-point loss to the Cowboys last week, while the week before they were thrashed 64-10 by the Storm in the Magic Round. After a strong start, they still sit just inside the top eight and have a perfect opportunity to play themselves back into form against the struggling Panthers.
Everything that can be said has been about the Panthers. They come into this match on the back of six straight losses, scoring a combined 88 points while conceding 166. They still look lost when attacking the opposition line and with just two wins so far their season is all but done, but perhaps a full game from Jarome Luai in the halves can spark them back into some form.
Tim Mannah comes back into the starting side along with Maika Sivo, while Brad Takairangi and Daniel Alvaro have been benched. Blake Ferguson moves into the centres while George Jennings comes in on the wing. Tepai Moeroa is out with a concussion, with David Gower coming onto the bench.
Parramatta Eels squad: 1 Clint Gutherson, 2 Maika Sivo, 3 Josh Hoffman, 4 Blake Ferguson, 5 George Jennings, 6 Will Smith, 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Junior Paulo, 9 Reed Mahoney, 10 Tim Mannah, 11 Shaun Lane, 12 Marata Niukore, 13 Manu Ma’u Interchange: 14 Peni Terepo, 15 Daniel Alvaro, 16 Brad Takairangi, 17 David Gower Reserves: 18 Jaeman Salmon, 19 Bevan French, 20 Kane Evans, 21 Oregon Kaufusi
Josh Mansour comes back onto the right wing while Brian To’o moves to the left wing in place of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak who has been dropped. Jarome Luai will start at five eighth in place of the suspended James Maloney. Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been recalled and will start at prop, Frank Winterstein starts in the back row with James Fisher-Harris moved to lock. Kaide Ellis has been dropped to the reserves.
Penrith Panthers squad: 1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Dean Whare, 4 Waqa Blake, 5 Brian To’o, 6 Jarome Luai, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Sione Katoa, 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Frank Winterstein, 13 James Fisher-Harris Interchange: 14 Liam Martin, 15 Tyrell Fuimaono, 16 Tim Grant, 17 Moses Leota Reserves: 18 Mitchell Kenny, 19 Hame Sele, 20 Kaide Ellis, 21 Caleb Aekins
HEAD TO HEAD
The Panthers and Eels met earlier in round one, with the Eels taking the two points in a 20-12 win. The same issues that have plagued the Panthers all season hurt them in that encounter, with poor ball handling and ill-discipline letting them down throughout the match. They came back strong late in the second half but it was too little too late.
All eyes will be on the halves. Nathan Cleary needs some confidence to be able to lead the Panthers around the park. A lot of people will be curious to see how Jarome Luai goes, with many believing he should take on the five-eighth role permanently. There’s no doubt the Panthers are way down on confidence and it’s up to the halves to turn around their side’s form.
For the Eels, Mitchell Moses will be key. He started the season very strong but has been relatively quiet over the last couple of weeks. Will Smith will do his job in the number six jersey, but Moses needs to lead from the front and take control. Whichever halves pairing plays best could determine the outcome of this match.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday, May 23
Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Referee: Grant Atkins, David Munro
WHO WILL WIN?
The Eels have lost two in a row, but there just seems to be no answer to the Panthers problems. The Eels are back at Bankwest Stadium where they are two from two so far and they should be able to keep that streak going.
Eels by 12