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2021 NRL Round Seven Preview, Eels Vs Broncos

Nathan Smith previews the Parramatta Eels up against the Brisbane Broncos. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: TIO Stadium, Darwin, Date: Friday, 23rd of April, Time: 7.55pm

Eels

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. Isaiah Papali’i
13. Nathan Brown
14. Oregon Kaufusi
15. Will Penisini
16. Wiremu Greig
17. Bryce Cartwright
18. Haze Dunster
19. Jordan Rankin
20. Keegan Hipgrave
21. Ryan Matterson

Team Changes

IN: Dylan Brown, Jordan Rankin, Ryan Matterson, Will Penisini
OUT: Will Smith

Broncos

1. Jamayne Isaako
2. Xavier Coates
3. Herbie Farnworth
4. David Mead
5. Corey Oates
6. Brodie Croft
7. Tom Dearden
8. Matt Lodge
9. Jake Turpin
10. Payne Haas
11. Alex Glenn
12. Tevita Pangai Junior
13. Patrick Carrigan
14. Danny Levi
15. Thomas Flegler
16. Ethan Bullemor
17. Jordan Riki
18. Rhys Kennedy
19. Tyson Gamble
20. John Asiata
21. Jesse Arthars

Team Changes

IN: Danny Levi, Herbie Farnworth, Jesse Arthars, Tyson Gamble
OUT: Richard Kennar

Referee: Grant Atkins

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Eels

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Parramatta returned to their winning ways last week with a comprehensive win against the Canberra Raiders. It was a strong response after a lacklustre loss against the Dragons the week before, which ended their undefeated run for 2021. They will be looking to start a new run of wins this week.

Daniel Brown returns to the halves, which pushes Will Smith out of the team. Last week’s debutant Wiremu Greig, who was impressive, retains a spot on the bench, while the youngster Will Penisini is set to make his debut. Ryan Matterson has been named at 21, with no indication he’ll return to first grade football this week.

Broncos

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Though they came up with a loss last week, Brisbane were inches away from toppling the competition favourites Penrith. It was a much-improved performance compared to those gone by and will be something to build on this week against the third-placed Eels. Realistically, if they put in like they did against Penrith, they are every chance of an upset.

Anthony Milford spends another week playing reserves, with Walters opting to stick with Brodie Croft and Thomas Dearden in the halves. Herbie Farnworth and Corey Oates both return to the backline, while John Asiata makes way for Danny Levi (who signed for the Broncos just this week).

PREVIEW

Both teams are looking to back up an 80-minute performance. Though Parramatta have been largely successful this year (with the one loss), one could argue they’ve only put in two genuinely great performances: round two against the Storm, and last week’s win against the Raiders. It will be on them to back up last week’s win with another 80 minutes.

The Broncos put in their best performance of the year last week, even if it was a loss. Penrith have been putting most teams away this year with ease, yet found it difficult to do so against the Broncos. A pre-game rev up from Walters might have had something to do with it, as his underperforming team came out firing. He shouldn’t have to rev them up before the game this week: they should be bringing the intensity shown last week into this match.

Payne Haas will be particularly fired up to take on fellow Blues teammate Junior Paulo. With six tries, a 90.7% tackle efficiency, and an average of 123 metres per game, Paulo is undoubtedly one of the most in-form props of the competition. The key to his work has always been his ability to release an offload, and this year has been no different, with the second phase play that comes from his passes often leading to a line break or try.

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Comparatively, Haas is no slouch, with an average of 177 metres across his limited appearances and a tackle efficiency of 92.9%. He has the size and grunt to put it to Paulo, with the numbers on the board to suggest he can play just as well, if not better. With both players also vying for a Blues jersey, the match-up becomes all the more enticing, as there’s no doubt Brad Fittler will be watching carefully.

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KEY STAT

Parramatta have had the edge over the Broncos in recent years, with their past four encounters resulting in victory. Furthermore, the Eels have a good strike rate at TIO Stadium, having last lost a match there back in 2017 against the Cowboys. Brisbane has never played the Eels in Darwin; however, the humidity will be of little concern to them, and so there’s no doubt they’ll relish the conditions. Ultimately, there aren’t many recent stats that support them; this is a perfect chance for them to write some.

PREDICTION

Parramatta are coming off a big win against the Raiders, while Brisbane are coming off a close loss to Penrith. Both will have every right to come into this match confident they’re a chance. Ultimately, Parramatta’s form may just be a bit too good for the Broncos, though if they put up the fight they did last week, they will keep it close. 

Eels by 10.

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