Eels v Sharks Preview

Eels v Sharks
Parramatta Stadium
Saturday 7.30pm

Parramatta will be looking for a little piece of revenge as they forge ahead in 2010, with a shutout loss to Cronulla earlier this season (11-0) still fresh in their minds.

The Eels have turned around a slow start to the season to move into sixth place on the NRL ladder and with minimal disruption in the lead up to Origin I they will start red hot favourites against a Cronulla side still battling away near the cellar.

Last Monday night's 19-12 win over the Sea Eagles was clinically impressive and showed the side can grind out a win if they are prepared to work for it. When they lost to the Sharks in Round 4, they weren't prepared to do so.

This match gives the Eels a chance to move into the top four for the first time in a very long time; however another upset loss could have then out of the top eight.

Origin has deprived the Eels of Jarryd Hayne and Timana Tahu, which brings some minor changes to the side that beat Manly.

Tom Humble moves from the halves to fullback to cover for Hayne, with Kris Keating back from injury at five-eighth. Krisnan Inu shifts in from wing to centre, and Eric Grothe returns from injury on the flank.

Jonathan Wright has been named as an 18th man.

For the Sharks, this game represents another chance to revive their season – which incredibly isn't dead just yet. Despite another loss at the weekend, Cronulla are still just four competition points off eighth spot. If they can string a few wins together, anything is possible.

They have retained the side from last week; however, John Morris and Anthony Tupou are slated to start in place of Paul Aiton and Broderick Wright.

Watch out Eels: Beware a spurned Paul Gallen! Despite playing for Australia in the Test against New Zealand just a few weeks ago, Gallen was overlooked for the New South Wales squad – and this spells massive danger for the Eels.

Gallen is a proud individual and he will be hurting from the omission. He knows the only way to prove the selectors wrong is through performance. Already the workhorse forward is averaging a mammoth 157 metres a game this season and he has added 23 offloads. He also provides the Sharks with more than 33 tackles every time he takes the field.

So far this season Gallen hasn't broken the line or scored a try – but you might just want to have a lazy dollar on him to do so in this match.

Watch out Sharks:
The list of weaknesses in the Sharks’ armour is extensive, but the Eels are set to place heavy focus on a few particulars.

The Sharks concede most of their tries in two specific areas: the left sideline and the right fringe. This equates to their right-sideline defenders and their left-edge defenders.

Opposition teams have scored 11 tries in each corridor so far this season, and the numbers look set to continue if Cronulla can't get it together.

Coach Ricky Stuart has appeared to be toying with certain players defensively, but one thing is clear... Tim Smith shouldn't be matching up on the likes of Michael Jennings like he did at stages last weekend. The halfback has a dig in defence, but still misses almost 25 per cent of attempted tackles. Going one-on-one with pure class, size and strength isn't advised.

Another issue the Sharks have is goal line defence. With 23 tries conceded from inside 10 metres, the Sharks boast the competition's most fragile goal line 'D'.

Where it will be won: Discipline in this match could well be a deciding factor. Both sides have been terrible with the referees so far this year, with the Eels giving up 62 free kicks from nine games and the Sharks conceding 64. This is up around the seven penalties a game mark and has both sides among the worst offenders.

In this day every advantage helps, and if the whistle comes into play often it can be the life and death of a side.

For the Sharks, Anthony Tupou has given up the most with eight conceded, while Gallen, Kade Snowden and John Morris have each been booked six times.

Nathan Hindmarsh, Tim Mannah and Daniel Mortimer are the problem children for the Eels, with six each.

The history:
Played 72; Eels 34, Sharks 38. The Eels are still hurting from the upset Cronulla win earlier this season, which pushed the Sharks’ recent record to four wins from the past five against the Parramatta boys.

The Sharks have no problems playing at Parramatta Stadium, having won 11 of 18 matches at the venue. In the past two games the losing team has failed to register a point.

Conclusion: The disruption to the Eels is only minor, but it still gives the Sharks hope here.

The Eels are often guilty of standing around and waiting for Jarryd Hayne to do something in matches; without him, this attitude obviously won't fly.

But they are still the better side and should be able to reverse the Round 4 result.

Match Officials: Referees: Jared Maxwell & Brett Suttor; Sideline Officials: Steve Chiddy & Adam Reid; Video Ref: Phil Cooley.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7.30pm.