Mitch Dransfield previews the top eight fixture between arch rivals the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles and Parramatta Eels this Sunday afternoon at Lottoland.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Manly were up against a South Sydney outfit on the back of four straight defeats. It was a close match, with many dubious calls going both ways, but the Rabbitohs won by field goal (21-20) to Adam Reynolds.
Parramatta were back at Bankwest against their western rivals the Wests Tigers. It was a grind for the opening half an hour until the floodgates opened, with Eels posting 16 unanswered points to see out the first half. A small fightback by Wests clawed it back to an 8-point difference, but the Eels powered on to win 30-18.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Just one change for Manly but it’s a big one, with Tom Trbojevic slotting back in at fullback. Brendan Elliot moves back to the reserves, while Lachlan Croker retains his spot on the bench.
Manly-Warringah Squad: 1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Dylan Walker 4. Moses Suli 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Cade Cust 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Manase Fainu 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Lachlan Croker 15. Corey Waddell 16. Morgan Boyle 17. Taniela Paseka 18. Brad Parker 19. Brendan Elliot 20. Haumole Olakau’atu 21. Lloyd Perrett
No need to tinker with a winning formula as the Eels head to Brookvale for a mouth-watering clash with old rivals Manly. Brad Arthur has named the same 17 which took care of the Wests Tigers on Sunday.
Parramatta Squad: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Brad Takairangi 4. Josh Hoffman 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Kane Evans 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Manu Ma’u 13. Nathan Brown 14. Jaeman Salmon 15. Marata Niukore 16. David Gower 17. Tepai Moeroa 18. Oregon Kaufusi 19. Daniel Alvaro 20. Will Smith 21. Ethan Parry
HEAD TO HEAD
The history of this head-to-head dates back to both teams joining the New South Wales Rugby League in 1947. Last year there were blowout scores with both sides struggling. This year they have turned it around to both feature in the middle of the top eight a few weeks out from the finals. The scorelines of the two previous meetings was 54-0 to Manly and 44-10 to Parramatta a month later. The previous inconsistency from these two sides isn’t as prevalent this year, so it should be another tight clash, with both teams looking to continue climbing the ladder.
The battle at Brookvale Oval will be immense, the repercussions on the table with Manly (fifth) and Parramatta (sixth) on equal points leading into the round makes it another classic match between old rivals. There are many key match-ups across the squads with large forward packs clashing, however it’s hard to go past the fullbacks: Clint Gutherson and Tom Trbojevic.
Parramatta have been boosted by Gutherson’s return to form this season, with many outstanding performances at fullback. Clint has produced many all round attributes that have cemented him as one of the best fullbacks this season, with 8 try assists, 6 line breaks and 4 tries while averaging 150 run metres; this makes it terribly hard for the opposition to deal with during his sweeping plays or supporting throughout the games. An ex-Manly junior coming up against the Sea Eagles will have Gutherson go to another level, which his side will need, especially if other playmakers are struggling to create; it will be up to him to come up with some big plays to beat the home side.
Trbojevic has been unstoppable this season, he has impacted without fault in the five matches he’s been a part of, but Tom will need to lift with his side to get a much-needed victory. He has starred at both club and Origin level, giving his sides the punch they need around the middle of the field, but also polishing off set plays via the playmakers. In the short space of time Trbojevic has 6 try assists, and 7 line breaks alongside 4 tries, which is incredible for someone in and out through injury; he will need to be injecting himself for the full eighty minutes as he usually does, but also using his line speed and pin point ball playing to help his halves carve up an Eels side vulnerable on their edges, but also through the middle if fatigued.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday, 21st July
Referee: Matt Cecchin
WHO WILL WIN?
This Sunday afternoon fixture will be an all important boost for the confidence of both teams leading into the final matches this season. The Sea Eagles have fought hard – with some of their superstars out during the Origin period – to win three from their last four, while the Eels have hit some consistency, winning four of the last five. Both sides are evenly matched but the added boost of Tom Trbojevic could prove the difference. Parramatta has been impressive this past month, however many of the top sides were affected by representative duties which allowed the Eels to get those much-needed wins. A telling sign will be how the Eels react to a grinding match that they haven’t been used to this season – Manly has produced this type of football against top sides, and there is a bit more polish with the home side having their complete and near strongest 17 out on the field, so they should pull away with a close victory.
Prediction: Sea Eagles by six.