Sea Eagles v Eels preview

Sea Eagles v Eels
Brookvale Oval
Monday, 7pm

As hard as we try to build up the clash between Manly and Parramatta, we can’t help but think we’re going to be let down. After all, stats don’t lie – and the figures show the Sea Eagles have been solid in 2013 and the Eels, well, they’ve just been plain awful.

Manly currently sit in fifth place on the Telstra Premiership NRL ladder but are desperate for a win and two competition points following three consecutive defeats by six points or less. Despite the tight losses to the Roosters, Bulldogs and Warriors, the Sea Eagles – who welcomed back superstar fullback Brett Stewart last Monday night – are just a point out of the top four after a more-than-respectable seven-and-six start (plus a draw) to the season.

The last-placed Eels, meanwhile, are proving to be the easy-beats of 2013 – the competition’s battlers have won just three matches and are currently enduring a five-match losing streak. But, as Eels fans tell you, where there’s life there’s hope – and die-hard supporters cling to memories of 2009’s fairytale finish. But if the Eels are to launch a late-season surge for the semis, it needs to start now.

Manly welcome back five-eighth Kieran Foran after he was struck by a severe case of food poisoning just hours before kick-off last week. (We loved Geoff Toovey’s explanation of it in last week’s press conference, too.) The Kiwi’s return pushes utility Tom Symonds to the bench.

For the Eels, Jarryd Hayne has been named to return for the Monday night clash at Brookvale Oval, though his fitness will be closely monitored late in the week. The Origin star’s inclusion pushes Jake Mullaney, who started in the No.1 against South Sydney in the Eels’ most recent match in Round 15, onto a five-man bench.

Watch Out Sea Eagles: Jarryd’s back – and the Hayne Plane needs to reach great heights one last time before Origin to guarantee the speedster a place in the Blues’ backline for Game Three on Wednesday week. If he soars against the Sea Eagles and helps raise the Eels’ standard of play, then chances are he’ll be charging into the NSW No.1 jumper, too.

Watch Out Eels: Lies, damn lies and statistics – Parramatta will be hoping all the figures are wrong entering this clash… as they all point to a significant Sea Eagles victory! It’s tough reading for Parra fans: they’ve lost seven of their past nine Monday night fixtures as well as seven of their past nine Brookvale Oval clashes; they’re currently averaging their fewest points on the road in 19 years; they’ve not yet won away from home this season. Ouch!

Plays To Watch: Sea Eagles captain Jamie Lyon getting in touch with the referees early – he’s not happy about his team’s recent treatment, particularly against the Roosters last week, and he’ll likely let this week’s refs know; Eels halfback Chris Sandow chip-kicking for himself or Jarryd Hayne when you least expect it; Manly centre Steve Matai sprinting out of the line and smothering his opponents in bell-ringing bear hugs; Rampaging Parramatta forward Fuifui Moimoi at full speed – enough said.

Key Match-Up: The battle of the fullbacks should prove great viewing, but the players inside the No.1s will have more influence here. Daly Cherry-Evans and Chris Sandow, Queensland halves in vastly different form and circumstances, push their team-mates around like chess pieces – but whose co-workers will listen to the instructions and follow the demands best? Both talented No.7s have game-breaking qualities but in Sandow’s case the match-winning potential hasn’t been on show on a consistent basis. There’s no doubting the talent, though – so far in 2013 he’s contributed a respectable eight try assists, three line-break assists and a league-leading four 40/20s. Cherry-Evans (five try assists and two 40/20s) is also a competitor, and both performers could drive their team to a win.

Where It Will Be Won: It’s not rocket science, but defence has proven a significant influencing factor in both teams’ seasons so far in 2013 – and it will in this match, too. The Sea Eagles concede just 14 points per game (the second-stingiest defence in the competition) while the Eels concede 28.2 (and by far the worst record in the comp). For Parramatta to even think of competing, their numerous holes need plugging – fast.

The History: Played 128; Sea Eagles 79, Eels 45, drawn 4.
Match Officials: Referees – Gavin Badger & Phil Haines; Video Referees – Luke Phillips & Henry Perenara; Sideline Officials – Russell Turner & Brett Suttor.

NRL Live 2013 App: Gives you access to every NRL game this season on your iPhone, iPad or Android smartphone as it’s being broadcast on TV, with up to six live games each week, including the Sea Eagles v Eels clash. Plus latest live scores, breaking news, comprehensive match highlights and full match replays.

Televised: Live – Fox Sports 1, 7pm.

The Way We See It: Only the most ardent Eels fan would believe Parramatta are in with a chance this Monday night, but perhaps that’s exactly the way coach Ricky Stuart wants it. Who knows what could happen if the Hayne Plane takes off and Chris Sandow starts to weave some magic! Still, as hard as we try we can’t see them posing a problem for Manly – with players like Watmough, Lyon, Matai and the Stewart brothers, they’ll prove far too good. Sea Eagles by 12 points.

*Statistics: NRL Stats.