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2021 NRL Round Eight Preview, Bulldogs Vs Eels

Matt Pritchard previews the Super Saturday clash between two arch-rivals, the Bulldogs and Eels to take place at Stadium Australia.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Stadium Australia, Date: 1/5, Time: 5:30pm

Bulldogs Team

1. Nick Meaney
2. Nick Cotric
3. Will Hopoate
4. Corey Allan
5. Tuipulotu Katoa
6. Jake Averillo
7. Kyle Flanagan
8. Dylan Napa
9. Sione Katoa
10. Luke Thompson
11. Adam Elliott
12. Chris Smith
13. Corey Waddell
14. Bradley Deitz
15. Renouf Atoni
16. Ava Seumanufagai
17. Matt Doorey
19. Brandon Wakeham
20. Joe Stimson
21. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
23. Ofahiki Ogden

Team Changes

IN: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Joe Stimson, Ofahiki Ogden
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. Isaiah Papali’i
13. Nathan Brown
14. Oregon Kaufusi
15. Ryan Matterson
16. Haze Dunster
17. Bryce Cartwright
18. Joey Lussick
19. Keegan Hipgrave
20. Wiremu Greig
21. Jordan Rankin

Team Changes

IN: Joey Lussick, Jordan Rankin, Keegan Hipgrave, Ryan Matterson
OUT: Will Smith

Referee: Peter Gough

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Bulldogs

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Canterbury became the final side in the National Rugby League to win in 2021 with their 18-12 victory over Cronulla-Sutherland at Jubilee Stadium last Saturday. New recruit Nick Cotric finally crossed for his first try since joining the club as the Bulldogs went out to an 18-point lead after 22 minutes. It was the first time the Bulldogs had kept a side to 12 points or less since their victory over Newcastle on July 26 last year by the same scoreline.

Perhaps the Bulldogs are starting to build combinations, especially around the halves, with Jake Averillo and Kyle Flanagan settling into their roles.

Since their Good Friday demolition by South Sydney, the Bulldogs have looked much better in attack but still need improvement on the defensive side if they are to elevate themselves out of the dreaded last place.

Trent Barrett will field the same 17 that triumphed over the Sharks last weekend.

Eels

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Parramatta demolished Brisbane 46-6 in Darwin last weekend with Maika Sivo scoring a hat-trick on their way to victory. Three tries in a seven-minute period before the break opened the floodgates with the Eels heading to half-time ahead 24-6. Despite the scoreline, Brad Arthur will be looking for improvement in attack. Several times their attacking play to the right hand side was clunky compared to the left-hand side where Sivo and Tom Opacic were superb.

This week has been dominated by speculation over the future of halfback Mitch Moses with the Brisbane Broncos sounding out the playmaker. It appears that Moses is set to reject the large offer to stay with the club.

Ryan Matterson and Haze Dunster come into the Eels’ 17, with Will Smith and Wiremu Greig dropping out. Matterson returns to the NRL side for the first time since being concussed in Parramatta’s stunning 16-12 victory over Melbourne all the way back in round two.

PREVIEW

The Parramatta Eels will go in as favourites to win their third game in a row when they face the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Stadium Australia. They have a well-balanced side on paper with the form of Clint Gutherson and Reed Mahoney, along with the control of Mitch Moses factors in their success.

The surprise packet for the Eels in 2021 has been Isaiah Papali’i. The 22-year-old former New Zealand Warrior may not have got the attention of NRL fans in previous seasons but he’s making up for it this year with some damaging performances.

Barrett will be seeking from his players this week continued improvement after rattling the embattled Sharks last weekend to get off the mark in 2021. Should they be able to play with purpose in attack and show signs of improvement in defence, could they spark a similar type of upset to the Dragons’ win over the Eels in round five?

Luke Thompson’s return to the side after being suspended for the first five rounds has demonstrated two things: his influence with what he brings to the side, and the Bulldogs’ recruitment to bring the former St Helens prop to the club was correct. With Matt Burton and now Brent Naden joining the club in 2022, they’re starting to take shape nicely to be more competitive in future seasons.

It’s unlikely that Parramatta will get it their own way in this one given the history between these two 1980 powerhouse clubs. Canterbury might just push the Eels for close to 80 minutes like they did when these two sides met last season. The Bulldogs will put in a better effort than the Broncos did last weekend against the Eels.

KEY STAT

Parramatta have lost just two of their last 10 matches against Canterbury. But the Bulldogs almost got the points last year at Stadium Australia against their more fancied opponents, with the Eels winning 18-16. Clint Gutherson scored two tries in victory against a team where he traditionally gets across the line for four pointers. Gutherson has scored seven tries in 10 games against the Bulldogs.

PREDICTION

Parramatta Eels by six.

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