Eels v Wests Tigers preview
Parramatta Eels v Wests Tigers
A huge Easter Monday triple-header kicks off at ANZ Stadium before games in Melbourne and Penrith later on in the evening as the Eels and Wests Tigers resume hostilities.
For those with short memories, these two sides faced off in a truly memorable western Sydney derby this time last year, as a record-breaking crowd of over 50,000 watched the Tigers edge the Eels 21-18 despite scoring three tries to Parramatta's four – and two of those were length-of-the-field efforts against the run of play.
It continued an ANZ curse for the blue and golds – that loss was their 14th in a row at the venue, although they ended up winning on their next visit later in the year. Fullback Jarryd Hayne was a two-try star for them against the Tigers last year; they'll need to play as a team like they did in a powerful upset win over the Rabbitohs last week if they want to reverse last year's result against a side stinging from blowing an 18-point lead late against Canterbury last week.
The Eels welcome back damaging back-rower Tepai Moeroa after an infection ruled him out of the Souths game. He pushes David Gower to the pine and Peni Terepo to an extended bench. Last week's two-try hero John Folau moves from wing to centre to cover the suspended Brad Takairangi with Bureta Faraimo called up. Reece Robinson is free to play after having his dangerous throw charge downgraded on Wednesday.
The Tigers welcome back Pat Richards (suspension) on the wing for Deloise Hoeter, Dene Halatau (quad) and Kangaroo prop Aaron Woods (knee). Sauaso Sue goes to the bench, Brenden Santi drops to an extended bench and Lamar Liolevave to the NSW Cup with breakout star Kyle Lovett promoted to the run-on side.
It wouldn't surprise to see another 50,000-plus crowd here with Easter ticket specials including transport costs being included in pre-booked and member tickets and the option for families to spend the morning next door at the Easter Show.
Watch out Eels: Talented but inconsistent young halfback Luke Brooks had his best game of 2015 last week, scoring a runaway try and setting up three more, linking beautifully with speedy fullback James Tedesco. The pair's developing combination is one to watch this year and Eels fans will still be cursing the youngster's length-of-the-field effort from a loose Jarryd Hayne ball in last year's Easter Monday meeting.
Watch out Tigers: Parramatta five-eighth Corey Norman looks to be in career-best form and has arguably been the Eels' best player over the opening four rounds. He is the equal competition leader for both try assists (five) and line break assists (five) in those four games and really looks to have found that proverbial next level. Some of his long cut-out passes have been absolutely pinpoint while some of his short tap-ons in sweeping left-side plays have been sublime.
Key Match-Up: Anthony Watmough v Martin Taupau. Two very angry locks face off in what should be one of the more intriguing – and fiery – head-to-head battles of the afternoon. Taupau blasted right through Watmough's Sea Eagles at Leichhardt last year and has been doing a similar thing to teams this year, while Watmough has quickly become a key member of an Eels forward pack heavy on big, aggressive young players but a little light on when it comes to Watmough's level of experience. 'Choc' arguably lost the points battle to old mate Glenn Stewart in the Eels' win last week but we're yet to see him take a backward step on the footy field and he'll relish the challenge of helping shut down the Tigers danger man.
The History: Played 29; Eels 16, Tigers 12, Drawn 1. The Tigers won the aforementioned only clash between the two sides last year and overall have won eight of the past 11 meetings. Victory against an Origin-depleted Canterbury was Parramatta's only win at ANZ in their past 16 visits. It hasn't been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Tigers either, who have lost their past four at the ground and won just four of their past 18 there.
What Are The Odds: Eels ($1.75) v Tigers ($2.00). There's been plenty of betting interest in this contest with Sportsbet. The bulk of money has gone on Parramatta in head-to-head betting, however the Tigers are better supported at the line where they'll receive 2.0 start. James Tedesco has been easily the best backed first tryscorer. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Jared Maxwell & Gavin Morris; touch judges: Brett Suttor & Jeff Younis; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton & Luke Patten.
Televised: Fox Sports, Live, 3pm.
The Way We See It: A good old-fashioned Western Sydney blockbuster beckons here at something of a bogey venue for both teams. It should be a spectacle and while either side can win, Parramatta's powerful effort against Souths has us leaning to the blue-and-golds in what should be another tight tussle.