Brendan Wood previews the round 14 clash between the Parramatta Eels and the Brisbane Broncos this Saturday night at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Last week the Eels were embarrassed defensively by the Sharks 42-22. Four losses from the past five games has seen the Eels drop to 8th on the ladder, with their only win in that span coming against an understrength Rabbitohs in round 12. They’ve got a big job to do to turn that form around against a resurgent Broncos team.
After enduring a rough start to the season, the Broncos seem to have hit their straps in recent weeks. they had a bit of a hiccup last week against the Titans, going down 26-18. Prior to that, they had won three games in a row and now find themselves on the edge of the top eight.
The Eels have made a few changes, with Jaeman Salmon coming in at five-eighth at the expense of Will Smith. Nathan Brown starts at lock and Tepai Moeora drops out of the side, with Ray Stone taking his place on the bench. Clinton Gutherson is clear to play after failing a HIA last week.
Eels squad: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Josh Hoffman 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Jaeman Salmon 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Kane Evans 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Manu Ma’u 13. Nathan Brown Bench: 14. Ray Stone 15. Peni Terepo 16. David Gower 17. Marata Niukore Reserves: 18. Daniel Alvaro 19. Tepai Moeroa 20. Brad Takairangi 21. Will Smith
The Broncos have a couple of forced changes, with Tom Dearden and Alex Glenn both ruled out through injury. Matt Gillett returns after having a week off, and Sean O’Sullivan makes his club debut at halfback in place of Dearden. Corey Oates also returns from injury this week on the wing, moving Richie Kennar back to the reserves.
Broncos squad: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Gehamat Shibasaki 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Anthony Milford 7. Sean O’Sullivan 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Jake Turpin 10. Payne Haas 11. David Fifita 12. Matt Gillett 13. Tevita Pangai Bench: 14. Andrew McCullough 15. Jaydn Su’A 16. Thomas Flegler 17. Patty Carrigan Reserves: 18. Richard Kennar 19. Shaun Fensom 20. Patrick Mago 21. James Segeyaro
HEAD TO HEAD
These two sides have not played each other yet this season, with their last meeting coming in round 12 last year at Suncorp Stadium. The Broncos were able to get the win on that occasion 18-10 with their Origin stars missing. Overall head to head over the past 20 seasons is very close between the two, with the Broncos holding a slight lead, 20 wins to Parramatta’s 19 from 39 games played.
Mitchell Moses vs Anthony Milford. Two big x-factor players. With two youngsters partnering each player in the halves this week, there is a lot of playmaking weight on the shoulders of these men.
Moses’ form has been up and down all year and he’ll be looking to stamp his authority, specifically his kicking game is going to be crucial. This is one area he could improve on after a disappointing showing against the Sharks where he came up with some schoolboy errors (e.g. not finding the sideline off a penalty kick for touch). To take the pressure off his kicking game, he’ll need to ensure he takes the line on with his running game when he gets the chance.
Milford is a similar player to Moses, so the goals for Milford will be similar. The big difference is young Sean O’Sullivan will be on debut at halfback. Milford often performs better when he can play without the pressure of being the organiser. If O’Sullivan struggles with adjusting to the pressures of first grade, we may see Milford step into more of that role. The Broncos will be hoping O’Sullivan takes to first grade footy like a duck to water, which will give Milford the freedom to make plays as he sees fit.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 15th of June
Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Referee: Henry Perenara, Liam Kennedy
WHO WILL WIN?
On paper, both teams are very evenly matched. With not a lot separating the sides, it may come down to confidence and determination to see who wants the two points more. The Eels are playing at Bankwest Stadium, where they have scored big points earlier this year. However, the Broncos are the more in form team. Given this, they should be able to continue this for long enough to get the win over an Eels team lacking confidence. Broncos by 4.