Julian Vella previews this round seven clash between two serious premiership contenders, as the Parramatta Eels take on the Canberra Raiders at Bankwest Stadium.
All good things must come to an end, and for the Eels their unbeaten start to the season was finally ended on Saturday night, gallantly beaten by defending premiers the Sydney Roosters. Despite going down, the Eels showed they can match it with the best, and they will have no doubt learnt some important lessons which will serve them well later in the year.
Ever since their eye-catching win over Melbourne in their first game back post-COVID, the Raiders have struggled to find their best, losing two of their next three games. It started against the Knights where the Raiders looked like they never really got off the bus, whilst a dour win over the Tigers was followed by last week’s loss to Manly. Despite the Sea Eagles losing three players from their back-line during the game, Canberra were never able to take advantage as their attack continues to splutter along.
Eels coach Brad Arthur has named the same side that went down to the Roosters, but he will need to make at least one change prior to kick off. Lock forward Nathan Brown again finds himself on the sidelines, this time through suspension as he unsuccessfully fought his careless high tackle charge at the judiciary on Tuesday night. Marata Niukore will most likely start at lock, whilst either Daniel Alvaro or David Gower will push onto the bench.
1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Nathan Brown 14. Ray Stone 15. Marata Niukore 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Brad Takairangi 18. David Gower 19. Daniel Alvaro 20. George Jennings 21. Jai Field.
Ricky Stuart is also sticking with his players who suffered defeat last week, but ‘Sticky’ will certainly be putting a few players on notice and will need to start seeing some improvements. After making his comeback after a long stint on the sidelines, Hudson Young made a solid return last week; expect Stuart to start increasing his minutes as Young gets up to speed.
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Jordan Rapana 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Curtis Scott 5. Nick Cotric 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Iosia Soliola 11. Joseph Tapine 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Corey Horsburgh 14. Siliva Havili 15. Emre Guler 16. Ryan Sutton 17. Hudson Young 18. Bailey Simonsson 19. Dunamis Lui 20. Matt Frawley 21. Tom Starling.
Both teams are on an unbeaten run of sorts as Parramatta are unbeaten at home after three matches, and Canberra are yet to lose on the road this year, winning all three of their away matches. Due to the rescheduling and relocation of games this year, Parramatta have indeed lost a game at their home ground Bankwest Stadium, as this was counted as a Roosters home game. In contrast, Canberra have played all four post-COVID games on the road, with their two ‘home losses’ being played at Campbelltown Stadium.
BATTLE TO WATCH
In what promises to be both an entertaining and physical encounter, it’s easy to find fascinating duels all over the field in this match: Blake Ferguson v Jordan Rapana will see two of the game’s best ball carriers on show; Josh Papalii v Junior Paulo will be the battle of the Samoan wrecking balls; whilst the battle between Mitchell Moses and George Williams will see two of the form halfbacks of the competition face off.
But the battle that could decide this match will be carried out not by two evenly matched players, but one player at the peak of his powers against another struggling to find his form and confidence. Parramatta’s Michael Jennings seems to be drinking from the fountain of youth as he has wound back the clock and put in some of the best performances of his career so far this year.
Jennings, who was almost out the door at Parramatta at the start of last year, has really turned it around and found the form that saw him win a premiership at the Roosters; whilst Curtis Scott – his opponent on Saturday night – has been found wanting, as he continues to struggle for form since moving from the Storm.
After Knights’ rookie Bradman Best gave him a bath in their round four clash, crossing for two tries, Scott was again in for a rough afternoon against Manly last week where he was beaten all ends up by Tom Trbojevic, who crossed for their second try of the afternoon down the Raiders’ right-side defence.
Scott and his winger Nick Cotric are in the infant stages of their partnership and are both playing on the right side, after spending the majority of their NRL careers on the left side of the field. They’ll need to find their bearings soon or they risk leaking in more points against a rampant Parramatta left-side attack.
So far in season 2020 Canberra have conceded eight tries down their right-hand side, whilst Parramatta have scored ten tries down their lethal left edge; if Scott and Cotric don’t make some adjustments during the week it could be a long night for the Raiders, and a profitable night for Jennings and Sivo.
Parramatta will be raring to go again this week after last week’s defeat to the Roosters; sometimes a loss can feel like a win, and although the Eels will have wanted to win last week, they will take plenty of positives out of the loss. Canberra, on the other hand, look like they’re heading in the wrong direction; there’s no shame in losing to a great Manly side, but under the circumstances Canberra really should have won that game.
All signs point to a Parramatta victory in this one.
Date: Saturday, June 27th.
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta.
Kick-off: 7:35pm, AEST.