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Eels v Sea Eagles
Parramatta Stadium
Sunday 2pm

Here we go again, Manly and Parra. The iconic line from the Tooheys commercials of the ’80s still comes to mind when these two fierce rivals clash and rarely do the sides disappoint when facing off.

It should be an absolute cracker down at Parramatta Stadium, which deserves a full house, so if you haven’t done so already, grab your tickets and feel alive!

Parramatta enters the contest on the back of a high-intensity 18-12 loss to the Dragons in what was a quality match by Round 1 standards. The Eels may not have come away with the result – but they did prove they could be competitive against a side with a whopping 95 per cent completion rate!

To be in the contest right up to the death against a near-flawless team is testament to their ability and should put them in great stead heading forward in 2010.

Joel Reddy returns at centre after being injured in last week’s warm-up, which sees Krisnan Inu return to the bench, while Shane Shackleton’s season is already over due to a horrific hamstring tear. His place will be taken by local junior Brendan Oake.

Manly should be coming into this contest with a win; however a 20-minute lapse against the Wests Tigers sees them with a ‘1’ in the loss column instead.

Fullback Brett Stewart has been ruled out (for five months!) with a knee injury after getting steamrolled by Lote Tuqiri, which forces some positional shifts. Michael Robertson moves from wing to fullback, Tony Williams shifts from centre to wing, Chris Bailey moves out wide to centre from the second row and Shane Rodney starts in the pack. Matt Cross and Joe Galuvao have been added to the bench (which still contains George Rose despite the fact he’s almost certainly facing suspension for a high tackle).

The match will double as a celebration for Eels winger Luke Burt’s milestone 200th game. Luke Burt Family Day will have activities in the stadium precinct before the game, and all fans will be given the rare opportunity to run onto the field at the conclusion of the match.

Watch out Eels: Former Eel and now Manly captain Jamie Lyon has taken over the show at the Sea Eagles and is the main weapon for Parramatta to contain.

He took care of the kicking in general play last week, making 438 metres, added a line-break assist, an offload and two try assists. Considering he played well without actually taking the line on often suggests that when he does, he could put in an all-round stormer.

The trick to containing Lyon is to reduce his thinking time. The Eels need to get at him fast and bustle him into mistakes.

Watch out Sea Eagles: Timana Tahu returned to rugby league last weekend and showed he won’t be bullied. The robust centre looked strong and determined to make a difference to the Eels’ backline.

He broke the line once and tackled with venom, pushing the boundaries of officialdom expertly.

The longer the season goes, the better he’ll get, but with a very vocal and appreciative Eels crowd behind him he could bust out a big one as early as this Sunday.

Against the Dragons, look for him to make even more than his 102 metres from last week.

Where it will be won: Second-phase football. Both teams aren’t afraid to look for offloads and it is from these passes that most line-breaks are flowing.

The Eels pumped out 16 offloads against the Dragons, showing great confidence in their abilities, and they were rewarded with some great breaks and mini-breaks, plus a few tries.

Every player in the squad, from freakish fullback Jarryd Hayne to the lumbering prop forward Nathan Cayless, are prepared to pop a pass; it makes the side very hard to defend against.

Cayless and Feleti Mateo managed three offloads each against the Dragons, while Timana Tahu, Eric Grothe and Nathan Hindmarsh contributed two each.

Manly tallied 12 offloads against the Wests Tigers and in the 60 minutes of good football they played, it was helping the side towards what should have been victory.

Prop Jason King made three, identifying him as someone to contain, while Brent Kite and Glenn Stewart had two each.

Both Manly and Parramatta restricted their opponents to eight offloads last weekend, so each has the ability to shut down second-phase and they’ll need to to prevail here.

The History: Played 122; Eels 42, Sea Eagles 76, drawn 4. Manly have the overall edge, the edge at Parramatta Stadium (9-7) and the recent edge, having won the past five matches between the clubs. Parramatta hasn’t beaten the Sea Eagles since 2006.

Conclusion: Both teams come into the match off a loss but the Eels looked much better losing than the Sea Eagles did. The loss of Brett Stewart doesn’t help Manly, who will need to strike a combination without him for pretty much the rest of the season. And a rabid home crowd swings the see-saw towards the Parramatta side.

It should be a cracking game with plenty of exciting attack but the Eels look set to kick-start their win column here, snapping a recent losing trend against Manly in the process.

Match officials: Referees – Shayne Hayne & Brett Suttor; Sideline Officials – Jeff Younis & Gavin Reynolds; Video Ref – Tim Mander.

Televised: Fox Sports 2 – Live 2pm (AEDT).

* Statistics: NRL Stats.
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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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