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2021 NRL Round 21 Preview, Eels Vs Rabbitohs

Nathan Smith previews the clash between the Parramatta Eels and South Sydney Rabbitohs. This is what we have to look forward to.

TEAM NEWS

Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast, Date: 6/8, Time: 8:05pm

Parramatta Eels Team

1. Clinton Gutherson
2. Maika Sivo
3. Tom Opacic
4. Waqa Blake
5. Blake Ferguson
6. Dylan Brown
7. Mitchell Moses
8. Oregon Kaufusi
9. Reed Mahoney
10. Junior Paulo
11. Isaiah Papali’i
12. Ryan Matterson
13. Nathan Brown
14. Bryce Cartwright
15. Shaun Lane
16. Maratak Niukore
17. Will Smith
18. Haze Dunster
19. Ray Stone
20. Jake Arthur
21. Makahesi Makatoa

Team Changes

IN: Bryce Cartwright, Makahesi Makatoa, Marata Niukore, Mitchell Moses
OUT: Reagan Campbell-Gillard

South Sydney Rabbitohs Team

1. Latrell Mitchell
2. Josh Mansour
3. Dane Gagai
4. Taane Milne
5. Jaxson Paulo
6. Cody Walker
7. Adam Reynolds
8. Mark Nicholls
9. Damien Cook
10. Thomas Burgess
11. Keaon Koloamatangi
12. Jai Arrow
13. Cameron Murray
14. Benji Marshall
15. Liam Knight
16. Tevita Tatola
17. Jaydn Su’A
18. Braidon Burns
19. Patrick Mago
20. Blake Taaffe
21. Davvy Moale

Team Changes

IN: Benji Marshall, Cameron Murray, Tevita Tatola
OUT:

Referee: Ashley Klein

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Parramatta Eels

The Eels have kicked off a hard run towards the finals poorly, having suffered two straight losses for the first time in 2021. Though they may have been forgiven for a close loss to the Raiders, there was no question about them having been comprehensively beaten by the Roosters last week. It doesn’t get easier against the third placed Rabbitohs. Another loss this week, and they may find themselves out of the top four by the end of this round.

Parramatta will see a few changes to the team that runs out this week. The Eels will welcome the return of Moses, who has been missing since his State of Origin debut. They have struggled in attack since his injury, and will be desperate for him to bring some direction back to the team. Waqa Blake and Blake Ferguson are both set to play despite both suffering head knocks last week. Furthermore, Oregon Kaufusi replaces Reagan-Campbell Gillard at prop, who is out with a groin injury. Finally, Marata Niukore and Bryce Cartwright return to the bench.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

The Rabbitohs notched up their eighth straight win in yet another high scoring affair. In those games, they have notched up a total of 334 points, which shows their attacking prowess. However, coach Wayne Bennett would have noticed that they’ve also conceded 116 points in that time, with the occasional lazy defence the one knock on their premiership credentials. They have a good record against the Eels and will look to win well once again, and ideally keep the opposition on, or close to, zero.

PREVIEW

Everyone loves a top four clash. Alas, coming into this game, it seems more like a clash between two very different sides: the Eels, who are fading faster than your shadow on a cloudy day, and the Rabbitohs, who have scored truckloads of points against everyone they’ve faced over the past eight weeks. Simply put, the build up for this isn’t suggesting it will be the 50/50 contest you’d expect from two sides sitting so close on the ladder.

This may be something that works in the Eels favour. Certainly, the majority of punters have written them off not only for the premiership, but to even have a serious crack in the finals series. This is despite the fact that they’ve had a terrific season overall, having toppled the number one team in the Melbourne Storm, and lost only to the second placed Panthers through a missed conversion kick. Indeed, Brad Arthur’s job this week is to remind his team of what they’ve achieved so far, and furthermore, to insist there’s more for them to achieve. It starts this week, by winning against an in form Rabbitohs side.

The Rabbitohs will be confident in what they can achieve in this match and beyond. They’ve been a regular contender for the past few years now and have featured in the past few preliminary finals matches. They’ve yet to take that final step, and with Bennett in his final year at the club, it may very well be the motivation they need to do so. However, before they do that, they will want to work on their defence. The attack is there, and comes easy to them, but it will be their ability to absorb pressure and defend their line that will determine their success. Their goal this week? Win, of course, but also keep the Eels to minimal points.

The for the Eels, their success this week, and for the rest of the regular season and beyond, will fall on the shoulders of much maligned half Mitchell Moses. Their inability to attack in his absence was a clear indication of his value to the team. In particular, its his ability to kick his team out of pressure (5,626 for the season), and his direction in attack (particularly in the opposition’s end) that his team has missed these past few weeks.

When it comes to picking a player who will guide the Rabbitohs, it becomes more a question of who don’t you pick. They have strike right across the park, however, if is worth noting that Cody Walker has been playing in arguably career best form, with an asburd 27 try assists to his name across 18 games. Whenever he runs the ball, no matter the situation, things happen. He’s having that sort of year. If he maintains his form in this game, the Eels will struggle to keep the score minimal.

KEY STAT

The Rabbitohs have a clear statistical advantage over the Eels, particularly in recent times. Overall, they’ve won 72 of their 130 games played. The Rabbitohs have defeated Parramatta in their past three encounters, and strangely enough, scored 38 against them in each of those games. Essentially, whenever they play Parramatta, they put on a score. The last time the Eels beat the Rabbitohs was in 2019, however, they were up against an Origin ravaged squad that particular night. For Eels’ fans, it’s grim reading if you’re looking at the stats between these sides.

PREDICTION

Parramatta should be able to find the line far more often than they have over the past two weeks with the return of their halfback Mitchell Moses. However, they will find it difficult to contain the attacking prowess of the Rabbitohs, particularly if their defensive woes from last week bleed into this game. Expect a high scoring match with both sides to post double figures on the board. Ultimately, the Rabbitohs should continue their winning run against the Eels and do so well.

Rabbitohs by 10

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