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2021 NRL Round Four Preview, Tigers Vs Eels

Nathan Smith previews the round four match between the Wests Tigers and the Parramatta Eels. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Stadium Australia, Sydney, Date: Monday, 5th of April, Time: 4:00pm

Tigers Team

  1. Daine Laurie
  2. David Nofoaluma
  3. Tommy Talau
  4. James Roberts
  5. Asu Kepaoa
  6. Adam Doueihi
  7. Luke Brooks
  8. Zane Musgrove
  9. Jacob Liddle
  10. James Tamou
  11. Luke Garner
  12. Luciano Leilua
  13. Alex Twal
  14. Moses Mbye
  15. Thomas Mikaele
  16. Stefano Utoikamanu
  17. Joe Ofahengaue
  18. Russell Packer
  19. BJ Leilua
  20. Michael Chee-Kam
  21. Alex Seyfarth

Team Changes

IN: Alex Seyfarth, Joseph Leilua, Michael Chee Kam, Russell Packer
OUT:

Eels Team

  1. Clinton Gutherson
  2. Maika Sivo
  3. Tom Opacic
  4. Marata Niukore
  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. Oregon Kaufusi
  15. Isaiah Papali’i
  16. Will Smith
  17. Ray Stone
  18. Jordan Rankin
  19. Haze Dunster
  20. Keegan Hipgrave
  21. Bryce Cartwright

Team Changes

IN: Bryce Cartwright, Haze Dunster, Jordan Rankin, Ryan Matterson
OUT:

Referee: Ashley Klein

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Tigers

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The Wests Tigers picked up their first win of the year after crashing Mitchell Pearce’s 300th game at Newcastle. It was a brave effort that saw them bounce back from a thrashing at the hands of the Roosters at Campbelltown. Though a long way out from convincing most of their top eight credentials, a gutsy away win was just the thing the team needed to prove to their fans, and themselves, that they can perform.

The team stands unchanged to the one that won last week. Luke Brooks was able to respond to his detractors with a strong game and will be looking to back it up against a strong Eels team. The young forward Stefano Utoikamanu was strong against Newcastle and will be fired up to play against his former team.

Eels

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Parramatta picked up their third win of the year (beating the Sharks), making them one of only two teams that remain undefeated in 2021. While they found it tough to put a depleted Sharks side away, there was promise in their patience to grind the game away until the Sharks were far too gassed to keep them from crossing.

Ryan Matterson returns to the team after a week off from a head knock. Coach Brad Arthur has opted to retain Ray Stone and drop Keegan Hipgrave from the bench. Though Hipgrave hasn’t done too much wrong, Stone had a strong game last week which included a fantastic runaway try. Marata Niukore has been brilliant at centre thus far and will be looking to continue to develop his partnership with Blake Ferguson, which may make it very hard for Waqa Blake to find a spot back in the team.

PREVIEW

The Easter Monday match between the Tigers and Eels is a highlight of the rugby league season. Who could forget the 2014 classic that saw Pat Richards knock over a penalty goal from the halfway line: 50,000 people had packed Stadium Australia on that particular night to watch the two teams battle it out in try-for-try fashion. Five years later, the Tigers had a less memorable encounter against the Eels at the newly opened Bankwest Stadium, that saw the home side christen their new stadium with a 51-6 thumping: 30,000 filled the place to watch history unfold. Having missed the encounter last year due to the COVID-19 break, fans will be itching to watch these two go at it again in front of what should be a bumper crowd.

The Tigers were written off after two rounds as potential wooden spooners. Certainly, their round two match against the Roosters wasn’t a promising sight. However, it’s clear that they’re far more capable than they’ve been given credit for, which was on show last week in their upset win against Newcastle. Dropping BJ Leilua has helped bolster their edge defence, and as such, he will find it difficult to break his way back in. Brooks has a bit of confidence back in his game and Daine Laurie is making a strong case as an early contender for rookie of the year. It’s the Tigers’ home game and it will be their members sitting in the best seats, so there’s plenty to play for beyond the obvious two points that will help launch them further away from the bottom of the table, and ideally, above that pesky ninth position.

Parramatta have slowly been building a case for themselves. After a patchy first round, their second round performance against the Storm demonstrated they could tough out a win. Last week, though patchy in attack again, there was a level of grit to their work that impressed. Let’s remember that the Eels were impressive in the early stages of the 2020 season; it was the latter stages of the year where they began to crumble. They won’t be thinking that far ahead, but they will know that this is a match they are capable of winning, and by doing so, they will continue to build a strong foundation to perform more consistently at the back end of the year.

KEY STAT

Parramatta have a clear winning advantage over the Tigers, having won 25 of their 41 encounters. Beyond this, their last Easter Monday clash was their triumphant thrashing on Easter Monday 2019. In fact, the Tigers haven’t beaten the Eels since the 2018 Easter Monday clash, which saw them win 30-20. Overall, there’s a bit of difficult recent history for the Tigers to overcome if they want to pick up a win this week.

PREDICTION

There could be a bit of rain around Sydney on Monday which may impact the footy. Naturally, a wet game means attack is put aside and the teams grind away, taking advantage of the few opportunities that present themselves. This will be a difficult style of footy for the Tigers to play if it comes to it. Meanwhile, the Eels have proven themselves more than capable this year after beating the reigning premiers (the Storm) in such a fashion. As such, the Eels will pick up the win in a game that may not see as many points as your usual Easter Monday clash.

Eels by 10.

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