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2021 NRL Round 19 Preview, Eels Vs Raiders

Andrew Pelechaty previews the Round 19 opener between Parramatta and Canberra. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast, Date: Thursday July 22, Time: 7:50pm

Eels Team

  1. Clinton Gutherson
  2. Maika Sivo
  3. Will Penisini
  4. Waqa Blake
  5. Blake Ferguson
  6. Dylan Brown
  7. Jake Arthur
  8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard
  9. Reed Mahoney
  10. Junior Paulo
  11. Isaiah Papali’i
  12. Ryan Matterson
  13. Nathan Brown
  14. Marata Niukore
  15. Shaun Lane
  16. Oregon Kaufusi
  17. Will Smith
  18. Haze Dunster
  19. Bryce Cartwright
  20. Makahesi Makatoa
  21. Joey Lussick

Team Changes

IN: Blake Ferguson
Joey Lussick
Junior Paulo
Makahesi Makatoa


OUT: Tom Opacic

Raiders Team

  1. Jordan Rapana
  2. Harley Smith-Shields
  3. Jarrod Croker
  4. Sebastian Kris
  5. Semi Valemei
  6. Matt Frawley
  7. Sam Williams
  8. Josh Papalii
  9. Josh Hodgson
  10. Emre Guler
  11. Corey Harawira-Naera
  12. Hudson Young
  13. Ryan Sutton
  14. Tom Starling
  15. Matthew Timoko
  16. Isolia Soliola
  17. Joseph Tapine
  18. Caleb Aekins
  19. Ryan James
  20. Siliva Havili
  21. Trey Mooney

Team Changes

IN: Caleb Aekins
Harley Smith-Shields
Matt Frawley
Siliva Havili
Trey Mooney


OUT:
Jack Wighton
Xavier Savage

Referee: Adam Gee

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Eels

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With seven rounds left, Parramatta have all but confirmed another top four finish. They rebounded from their narrow loss to Penrith in round 16 with a comfortable round 18 win over a disappointing Titans team at Cbus Super Stadium. 

The Eels racked up a 26-0 lead (tries to Dylan Brown, Shaun Lane, Reed Mahoney, Haze Dunster, and Ryan Matterson) before two late consolation tries to the Titans.

The Eels sit fourth, with a four-point lead over the Sydney Roosters and a hefty points differential advantage over the Eastern Suburbs club.

In a huge blow for the Eels, Mitchell Moses is out with a back fracture, sustained during Origin III, with Jake Arthur playing halfback for now. Moses’ return date is to be confirmed. Tom Opacic will miss the game on compassionate grounds. Blake Ferguson is back for the first time since round 12.

Raiders

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A fortnight after hitting the rockiest of rock bottoms against the Titans, Canberra are back in top eight contention following impressive wins over Manly Warringah and Cronulla-Sutherland. Not only has all the off-field soap opera drama finally died down, but the puzzle pieces are starting to fit.

The emergence of Xavier Savage is exciting: he scored his first NRL try last weekend, showed off his famed speed, and – more importantly- showed some mental strength by playing on with a shoulder injury. Add to the mix Corey Harawira-Naera and Josh Papalii’s improved form, and Hudson Young’s successful return, and The Milk are starting to click. 

The Sharks win was impressive because Canberra could have easily lost it: they trailed 18-16 midway through the second half when Jack Wighton finally succumbed to his rib injury. Rather than their usual late game collapse, Canberra rallied, with tries to Young, Savage, and Semi Valemei to secure the win.

In a devastating blow for the Raiders, the shoulder injury Savage sustained against the Sharks will rule him out for the season. It continues Canberra’s horrible luck with fullbacks: they’ve lost Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Bailey Simonsson for the season, while Caleb Aekins was dropped after seven games.

Savage’s injury allows Harley Smith-Shields to return. He made his NRL debut in 2020, but has been out for most of this season with a ruptured biceps tendon. Jordan Rapana moves to fullback, while Smith-Shields will play on the wing. Matt Frawley, who was super impressive against Manly, replaces Jack Wighton (though Wighton should only miss a week or two). Elliott Whitehead has also been given another week’s rest, while Matthew Timoko returns to the interchange bench.

PREVIEW

There’s plenty at stake in this Thursday night clash on the Gold Coast. Both teams played at Cbus last week, so this is basically a neutral venue.

While Parramatta’s top four hopes are all but secure, they’ll want to climb as high as possible to avoid a likely qualifying final against Melbourne, as the Storm have bossed the Eels in their last two finals clashes: 36-24 in 2020 and 32-0 in 2019. Forget the “one game at a time” clichés: Parramatta will surely have an eye on the long game, wanting to avoid another backdoor finals exit; they’ll want to make the preliminary final at a minimum.

While Canberra’s finals hopes are more tenuous, to even be in the race says a lot about Canberra’s tenacity and the closeness of the middle of the table. While Canberra have had a nightmare year and a dramatic fall from grace (remember they were 10 minutes from winning the 2019 grand final), squeezing into seventh or eighth will be a success after being as low as 14th following the Titans loss.

KEY STAT

While Canberra have a 20-15 lead since 1998, Parramatta have won the last three.

They smashed Canberra 35-10 in round six this year, winning the second half 23-0. After a competitive loss to Penrith the week before, the Eels loss signalled the Raiders’ descent into madness. 

The Eels’ 25-24 Golden Point win in 2020 only got that far because of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad. Parramatta led comfortably with five minutes left before CNK’s double forced Golden Point, with Clinton Gutherson’s 87th minute field goal winning it for the Eels. Crucially, that victory was the difference between Parramatta getting the double chance and Canberra just missing out.

The 2019 Darwin clash was bizarre, with Canberra leading 16-0 after 30 minutes but wilting in the Top End heat and humidity, with Parramatta winning 22-16 through a double to Blake Ferguson.

PREDICTION

This one will be close: while Parramatta are humming along nicely, Canberra have crucial winning momentum and need to keep winning to stay in the finals race (with games against Manly, Melbourne, and the Roosters to come); even without Savage, Wighton, and Whitehead, that desperation could be enough to get them over the line.

Raiders by two.

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Comments (1)

  1. Great tipping, mate! Thought Canberra (handicap +16)was a bet but I wasn’t brave enough to believe they’d win match!

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