Bulldogs v Eels Preview

Bulldogs v Eels
ANZ Stadium
Saturday, 5:30pm

This traditional rivalry will find some fire this time around if Parramatta can continue their improved performances on Saturday.

A few weeks ago we would have predicted a whitewash, but the Eels played one of their best games of the season against the Storm last week. Sure, they were depleted, but Billy Slater and Greg Inglis’ impact were still kept to a minimum.

This week will be much tougher for Parramatta though. The Bulldogs have been outstanding all year and with Ben Hannant returning from injury and Bryson Goodwin from suspension, they are back to full strength.

The Eels are finally finding some continuity and the team they field will be the same as the one that beat Melbourne. However without the motivation of playing for Nathan Hindmarsh, as they did against the Storm for his 250th game, the Eels will need to find something else to play for during the full 80 minutes.

Watch out Bulldogs: It is no secret where the Eels’ attack will be directed. But the thing that makes fullback Jarryd Hayne such a phenomenal player is that no matter how much homework a team does on him, the Origin winger still manages to evade defences. He is big and strong, but also boasts serious pace, while his time at five-eighth has actually enhanced his passing and kicking game.

As a team the Bulldogs have missed the second most tackles in the NRL with 604 for the season so far. Hayne will evade any tackler that does not come in with full commitment. Luckily they have Luke Patten, a noted try-saver, at the back but this is making his job more difficult. The Bulldogs have pulled off 56 try-saving tackles this season which is third-most, but it is tough to pull Hayne down when he in the clear. The Eels are also learning to keep up with their star player, and Jeff Robson’s try against the Storm from a Hayne break and miraculous pass shows the high quality of attack they are capable of when Hayne is backed up.

Krisnan Inu’s performances in the past two weeks have also heartened Eels fans as he looks to be finally playing to his potential.

Watch out Eels: The Bulldogs’ attack is far superior to the Eels’ and they will be directing as much traffic down their left side as possible to make the most of the defensive deficiencies on the Eels’ right. Parramatta will be concentrating all their efforts on stopping Josh Morris and Bryson Goodwin, who have the potential to seriously expose Eric Grothe’s indecision in the defensive line. On the left they are the most potent team in the NRL, scoring a massive 42 tries on that edge. Captain Andrew Ryan has also been effective as a wide-runner on that side of the field this season, and the improvement of five-eighth Ben Roberts has also contributed to their potency.

In defence the Bulldogs have an advantage over the Eels as well, with a perfect defensive record in their own half. Not one try has been scored against them that was created on the other side of the 50-metre line, which the ’Dogs will be hoping limits Hayne’s effect.

Where it will be won: The Eels have struggled to score points all year, unable to find an effective halves combination. They have managed just 48 tries all season, while the Bulldogs have scored 71, on par with the Cowboys as the best in the NRL.

However Parramatta’s danger only comes from the back, so a good kicking game from Brett Kimmorley, Roberts and Michael Ennis is essential. They are averaging 645 kick-metres a game, which is among the best, with a 56.7 per cent accuracy on them.

In attack the Bulldogs do not favour a bomb or cross-field kick, usually due to the lack of height of their other winger Hazem El Masri; however a kick to the left could be effective. Grothe is not confident under the high ball and it affects his ability to catch the ball or make the decision of where to position himself. Parramatta have defused just 55 per cent of cross-field kicks and 60 per cent of bombs.

Joel Reddy is a solid defensive centre, so to isolate Grothe either by a kick or cut-out pass will be the main attacking focal point of this game.

The history: In 124 matches the Bulldogs hold supremacy with 66 wins, the Eels 53, and there have been five draws. At ANZ Stadium the Bulldogs have won six and Parramatta four from 10 matches.

Conclusion: The Bulldogs demonstrated their title-winning form against the Titans last weekend and Parramatta will not match them if they play like that again. The key is the Bulldogs’ left side. If the Eels do not work to plug the gaps that always appear in their defence it won’t matter how many points they score… because the Bulldogs will have more.

The experience of Kimmorley in the halves against Jeff Robson and Daniel Mortimer will ensure Morris and Goodwin see as much ball as possible.

Match Officials: Referee – Steve Lyons & Alan Shortall; Sideline Officials – Daniel Eastwood & Luke Potter; Video Ref – Chris Ward.

Televised:  Fox Sports, Live, 5.30pm AEST.

* Stats: NRL Stats.