Eels v Broncos Preview

Parramatta Stadium
Sunday 3pm

“Welcome to Sunday afternoon; could you please take your seat for today’s fixture where you are sure to see plenty of tries!”

There’s no denying it, this is likely to be a high-scoring affair – Brisbane have conceded a club record 138 points in just three matches, and in that horror period they’ve missed an astonishing 153 tackles, while Parramatta have simply been on the end of some real thumpings this year and find themselves near the bottom of just about every defensive stats category – they’re second worst for points conceded per match with 23.5 a game… 12th in the competition for conceding nearly four tries every match… and third last for the amount of metres they give teams.

Brisbane are a proud club with a strong roster. They will not play this poorly for the rest of the year – and you kind of expect that Ivan Henjak will be making sure their run starts this weekend.

As you would expect, Brisbane have made a lot of changes from the side that was humiliated by Cronulla last round. Gone are rookies Dale Copley, Jharal Yow Yeh and Ben Hunt, while Ben Te’o takes a two-week holiday for an awful lifting tackle. Also, Antonio Winterstein can consider himself lucky he wasn’t cut after playing the worst game of his career on Monday night.

In for them come Queensland’s five Origin stars – Darren Lockyer, Sam Thaiday, Karmichael Hunt, Israel Folau and NSW’s Peter Wallace – as well as Souths-bound prop Dave Taylor on an extended bench.

As we’ve seen all season, Parramatta coach Daniel Anderson has been loathe to make changes to his spluttering line-up – but Eels fans will be encouraged by his willingness to stick with young halves pairing Daniel Mortimer and Jeff Robson.

Watch out Broncos: Stop the presses, we have breaking news on how to beat Parramatta! All you need to do is limit the amount of damage Jarryd Hayne can cause from fullback…

The Eels have quickly become a tragic one-man-band this season and have shown they really struggle without their number one man – but what a purple patch he is in! In the Eels’ past five games, Hayne has scored five tries, made seven line breaks and is averaging more the 200 metres a match. They are impressive numbers. If Brisbane can nullify Hayne they will go a long way towards winning this match.

The danger for Brisbane is that they are no longer a feared defensive team – they in fact have conceded more points this year (341) than anyone bar the Sydney Roosters (388), and have registered the second highest number of ineffective tackles… again behind the Roosters.

If Parramatta are allowed to offload at will, Hayne will come into the game even more.

Watch out Eels: Where do we start? Brisbane will have been walking around this week like a bear with a sore head. Rarely is this team ever embarrassed by a performance – but that is exactly what happened at the Cronulla debacle, and you can take it as a given that they will want to bounce back.

For all their defensive woes this year, though, Brisbane cannot be accused of struggling to score points. Be especially wary of their ability to break through the middle of the field and create opportunities with a line-break, as they’ve been successful with this tactic to score 30 times this year – behind only Newcastle as far as tries from line-break busts is concerned.

They are missing one specialist, Justin Hodges, but they’ve got the next best thing at fullback… Karmichael Hunt has four line-break busts for the season and 32 tackle-breaks. He’s the hardest-running fullback in the game and a terrifying man to bring down if he’s been given some space to wind up.

Where it will be won: It all depends on Brisbane’s Origin brigade. If their big five can come through unscathed and are able to back up, then this match should not even be a contest.

The Broncos haven’t looked themselves in recent weeks but Lockyer has not played in two of their past three losses (he only played against the Bulldogs). And having Hunt roaming and shouting orders from fullback will put the defensive line at ease as well, while Brisbane hold a clear advantage over the inexperienced Parramatta halves pairing.

If the Eels are a chance to win this – and at home they certainly are – their forwards will need to take control like Cronulla did last round. Despite Brisbane missing just one forward (Sam Thaiday), their pack was well and truly steamrolled by the unfancied Sharks. Kade Snowden, Luke Douglas, Anthony Tupou and Grant Millington are far from the game’s leading enforcers but they gave Brisbane a nightmare they’ll remember for the rest of the season.

The likes of Hindmarsh, Cayless, Moimoi and Galuvao will need to do the same if the Eels are to spring an upset.

The History: Played 39; Broncos 24, Eels 14, drawn 1. Brisbane hold a 12-4 advantage at Parramatta Stadium. There have been some particularly high-scoring games recently, including Parramatta’s 46-point thumping in 2007 and Brisbane’s thunderous 40-8 victory earlier this season. Brisbane have won six of the past nine.

Conclusion: They have looked truly awful, but is it possible to go past the Broncos? As clueless as they have been, deep down you know Parramatta have been just as bad in recent weeks.

If Lockyer’s old legs can back up, Brisbane should be short favourites. But even if he doesn’t…. they will still win.

Match officials: Referees – Tony Archer & Matt Cecchin; Sideline Officials – Paul Holland & Adam Devcich; Video Ref – Paul Simpkins. 

Televised: Channel Nine – Delayed 4pm; Fox Sports – Delayed 7pm.