Eels skipper Tim Mannah will be hoping for a much improved showing when his side hosts the Roosters just a month after losing to them 56-4. Copyright: Grant Trouville/NRL Photos. Credit: Grant Trouville/NRL Photos. Copyright: Grant Trouville/NRL Photos.
Eels v Roosters
Anyone who's ever played cricket and dropped a sitter in the outfield will tell you that you just want the next ball to come to you so you can catch it and erase the embarrassment.
So it could be with the proud and much-improved Eels outfit who were not just outclassed but humiliated by the Roosters to the tune of 56-4 just a month ago in a performance that had fans fearing 2014 could be more of the same bad old Parra.
They will certainly be looking to make amends for that shocker and plenty has changed since then, much of it in their favour.
For starters they're back at home – the site of all five of their 2013 wins and where they are two from two with big victories over the Warriors and Penrith so far in 2014. They were also without hooker Nathan Peats in that one and have looked a completely different side with him controlling the action from dummy-half. In the three games since they had a close and very unlucky last-minute loss to Manly, that big win over Penrith and then last week broke a 20-game duck away from Parramatta with a highly impressive decision over the Broncos.
And for their part the Roosters have had a fairly tough time of it since then, scraping home against the Broncos on the back of some late Mitchell Pearce brilliance then losing low-scoring dogfights against Manly and the, well, Dogs.
They certainly haven't been outclassed and their defence has remained very sound but successive losses see them below the Eels on the ladder, in 10th place with just two wins from five starts. Given the quality of their opposition over the past fortnight there's no great cause for concern but another loss here would start to see them slip away from the top eight, whereas a win would entrench them mid-table.
If the Eels can earn the two competition points here they can theoretically finish the weekend as high as second or more realistically somewhere around fourth, whereas a loss would certainly see them relinquish their slender grip on the top eight.
Both sides welcome back a hard-hitting prop to their starting side for this one. For the Eels, Fuifui Moimoi is back after sitting out a week with a cut to his calf, pushing Peni Terepo to the bench and Junior Paulo out of the side.
For the Roosters, Jared Warea-Hargreaves is back from a one-game suspension meaning Frank-Paul Nuuausala moves from prop to lock, Aidan Guerra goes back to the bench and Isaac Liu is shifted out to an extended bench where he is joined by Kane Evans.
Watch Out Eels: You don't have to cast your mind too far back to get a handle on exactly the danger the Roosters pose to this Eels side. In Round 2 Waerea-Hargreaves charged through the middle of the Eels at will on his way to 153 metres from 15 runs, evergreen fullback Anthony Minichiello notched the first NRL hat-trick of his illustrious career and fleet-footed winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – who has made a habit of tormenting the Eels in his young career so far – bagged a double to go with his 147 metres. On the other flank Daniel Tupou made 146 metres and also bagged a try. Given the edges have been Parramatta's biggest weakness in recent seasons expect these two tall, agile and highly talented wingers to again be in the thick of it.
Watch Out Roosters: As fantastic as Jarryd Hayne and Semi Radradra have been in recent weeks, the biggest thing the Roosters will have to account for is the presence of Nathan Peats, who missed the previous encounter. The direction he provides from dummy-half combined with his frequent and astute darts behind lazy markers (around six dummy-half runs per game and three tries) have added a completely new dimension to the Eels in 2014. Expect him to make a massive difference this time around.
Plays To Watch: The Roosters will target both wingers with cross-field kicks, especially looking to isolate the 6'5" Tupou against the much smaller Ken Sio. With two wins from two games this year diminutive Eels half Chris Sandow will be riding a wave of confidence and is all but guaranteed to pull out a chip-and-chase sooner rather than later.
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Where It Will Be Won: In the lead-up. The Eels were beaten absolutely everywhere the last time these clubs met so their biggest challenge heading into this one will be mental. Coach Brad Arthur looks to have instilled a new level of belief in his charges so if anyone can galvanise them after that dispiriting loss it's him. He just needs to convince them that this Roosters outfit, which beat them so convincingly in Round 2 (and outscored them 88-24 in two outings last year) is just another mob of footy players that can be beaten. With so many 'confidence' players in the Eels side, if they can get on a roll and not worry about who the opposition are they are good enough to win this.
The History: Played 141; Roosters 73, Eels 63, drawn 5. The Roosters have won their past three, and six of their past seven, against Parramatta.
What Are The Odds: Punters are in love with the Eels – money is pouring in two to one for the Eels at Sportsbet.com.au and as a result they’ve been cut into $2.70 from $3.16. The Roosters have drifted from $1.36 out to $1.45. Bets are also three to one in favour of the Eels.
Match Officials: Referees – Gerard Sutton & Dave Munro; Touch Judges – Paul Holland & Luke Potter; Video Referees – Bernard Sutton & Matt Rodwell.
Televised: Fox Sports, Live, 5.30pm.
The Way We See It: We don't see this one panning out the same as the last meeting but it's still a huge mountain to climb for the much-improved Eels. We'll tip the Roosters but by a far skinnier margin – 10 points.