Eels v Broncos Preview

Eels v Broncos
Parramatta Stadium
Saturday 5.30pm

What a cracking way to start a Super Saturday of three back-to-back-to-back live matches!

In the blue-and-gold corner we have a side desperate to find their mojo from last season; and in the maroon-and-yellow corner we have a young side still fighting for a bit of credibility despite an impressive rally.

With the Eels sitting ninth and the Broncos eighth, both on 16 competition points but separated by differential, the importance of this match cannot be understated. The winner will be in the finals zone with 10 rounds to play. The loser won’t.

Parramatta is a team completely without rhythm. They cannot seem to find the cohesion to their game that was present in the back half of 2009 and it allowed the Knights to steal a win last Monday night.

Consistent performance is eluding them – and time is running out to get the oval ball in the oval hole instead of trying to force it though the square one.

Conditions last Monday night made it difficult to promote their second-phase play but with a bit of luck Parramatta Stadium won’t be a swamp and they can return to some free-flowing football.

Timana Tahu is out of the side following his suspension, with Jonathan Wright coming in at centre. Eric Grothe has succumbed to injury again, allowing Krisnan Inu onto the wing.

Ben Smith also returns in the back row, with Brendan Oake missing out.

The Broncos fell to a disciplined Panthers outfit last weekend, snapping a five-game run they had going. However, they battled hard throughout with tired Origin players and showed enough signs to suggest they are certainly capable of keeping the club’s amazing finals record alive.

The side will make the trip to Sydney without Alex Glenn, which sees Matt Gillett start in the centres. Lagi Setu comes into the side at starting prop, pushing Nick Kenny back to the bench.
 
It’s yet another benchmark game for Lockyer – this time he’ll break Andrew Ettingshausen’s record of 328 premiership games for a single club.

Watch out Eels:
The Broncos love to attack the fringes of the ruck and it is where they have most of their success scoring tries.

For those of you who are unaware, a rugby league field, when viewed lengthways, can be broken into five corridors: a left and right sideline corridor, a middle corridor and then the left and right fringe corridors are between the aforementioned two. These are also called the ‘edges’. (So when you hear a commentator talking about Sam Thaiday on the right edge, you can get a picture as to where he is attacking.)

Brisbane have scored 15 tries on the left edge, and 21 tries on the right edge. This equates to 61 per cent of their tries so far this season. The Eels need to really compress the edges and then be ready to slide should the Broncos shift it wider.

Watch out Broncos:
The Eels have a significant edge when it comes to defence and it could be the death of the Broncos in this contest if they aren’t able to match them in the muscle-up.

Parramatta are effective on 87.5 per cent of the tackles they attempt as a team – the highest percentage in the NRL – while the Broncos are running second last in the same category with just 83.2 per cent of their tackles being effective.

The Broncos have missed 554 tackles so far this year, which is just under 40 a match, while the Eels average out at just over 30 misses each week.

An extra 10 missed tackles in the match could be the difference in the result.

Where it will be won:
Touches of class. This game shapes as one to be won by a special play from a special individual. This is most likely going to be Darren Lockyer or Peter Wallace from the Broncos, or Jarryd Hayne from the Eels – but some other individuals are also lurking.

Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker have been awesome for the Broncos this season and Israel Folau can find a try from anywhere. Then there is young winger Jharal Yow Yeh, who has grown in stature since getting a call-up as Queensland’s 18th man in Origin II.

For the Eels, Nathan Hindmarsh is always good for an inspirational play but it is time for Daniel Mortimer to be “the man”. Along with Newcastle’s Jarrod Mullen, he has been one of the bigger disappointments of the year thus far – but could be just one big play from a turnaround in form. Justin Poore, the forgotten man from last season’s Origin campaign, and Tim Mannah can push for a Blues jersey here also.

The history: Played 40; Eels 15, Broncos 24, drawn 1. In recent times these two sides have shared results with four each from the past eight.

In the corresponding game at Parramatta last year the Eels won 21-14, although the Broncos have a fantastic record at the venue against the Eels winning 12 of 17 matches.

In saying that, their last victory at Parramatta Stadium was in 2006 and they have lost three of the past four here. 

Conclusion:
As much as their fans want to believe they are, the Eels just aren’t the side they were last season, while the Broncos are doing quite well despite their lack of experience. But this match could easily fall to either side.

Brisbane’s youth is infectious and with Origin stars playing well around them, they look great (if still a little shaky in defence).
 
The Eels are a tough defensive unit, but they are doing next to nothing in attack. Brisbane’s loose defending might give the blue-and-golds more of a chance to shine… if you think that may be the case, lean their way.

The last say: maybe the Broncos will rally behind clubman Lockyer’s wonderful milestone. You’d think that will be the case.

Match officials: Referees – Jared Maxwell & Phil Haines; Sideline Officials – Steve Chiddy & Ricky McFarlane; Video Ref – Russell Smith.