Sea Eagles v Eels preview
Manly Sea Eagles v Parramatta Eels
The Sea Eagles' stunning late-season surge rolls on as they return to their Brookie Oval nest keen to cement a position in the top eight with victory over the Eels.
Another hugely impressive victory last start has the boys from the northern beaches rocketing into premiership contention with just three games remaining in the regular season.
The rest of the competition is shaking in their boots, knowing Manly's star-studded squad has unmatched experience in the big games and the big moments – an attribute that has seen them compete in every finals series since 2005.
But before they can get to that stage they have to win the ones they're expected to, and that mission starts on Sunday against Parramatta, a team that demolished them 42-12 in Round 1 this season.
Manly get a big boost ahead of this clash with hulking winger Jorge Taufua cleared of any wrongdoing at the NRL judiciary for his collision with Canberra's Jack Wighton.
The only change for Manly is Josh Starling moving to the starting front row position with Warriors-bound Ligi Sao reverting to the bench.
Meanwhile for the Eels, who will be looking to distance themselves from the wooden spoon, Will Hopoate returns in the centres at the expense of Vai Toutai.
Otherwise, Nathan Peats is out with a neck fracture, in his place Isaac De Gois starts at hooker while Daniel Alvaro joins the bench.
Watch Out Sea Eagles: Semi Radradra has been in unstoppable try-scoring form for a Parramatta Eels side that otherwise struggles to find points. Give this speedster a sniff and he'll make you pay. With 19 tries to his name this year, big Semi will be hoping to bag a few more on Sunday afternoon to give him a buffer atop this year's NRL try-scoring list. Parramatta's left edge of Semi Radradra, Brad Takairangi and Manu Ma'u have combined for 44 tries (62.8 per cent of the Eels' total tries this season).
Watch Out Eels: Last week Manly showed experience in the big moments wins matches and this week their advantage in that area is profound. For example, the back five of Manly have 850 games of NRL experience to their name as opposed to the same group for Parramatta, who possess just 383. While experience won't blow the Eels off the Brookvale Oval turf, if the game does come down to the wire – like last week – you can be sure that experience will win out.
Key Match-Up: Kieran Foran v Corey Norman. Plenty of points will come through this classy duo for their respective sides on Sunday afternoon. Foran is the more controlled ball playing type, while Norman plays much more off the cuff. The Eels playmaker will need to have a huge performance and outplay his opposite number to give his side a chance on Sunday.
The History: Played 133; Sea Eagles 82, Eels 47, Drawn 4. The last time these two sides met the Eels smashed the Sea Eagles 42-12 in the opening round of the 2015 season.
What Are The Odds: A few bargain hunters have taken Sportsbet's huge price on offer for the Eels, but overall five times the cash has been placed on Manly to continue their winning ways. Sea Eagles 13+ is holding more money than all of the other options combined. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Ben Cummins. Assistant Referee: Alan Shortall. Touch Judges: Michael Wise, Adam Reid. Video Referees: Steve Clark, Ben Galea.
Televised: Live Channel Nine 4:00pm
The Way We See It: David turns Goliath in this clash. After months of unlikely victories the tables have turned and Manly find themselves in the unusual position of being massive favourites. This is a clash in which many other teams in the competition would likely choke, but surely not Manly. Their advantage in class should make a big victory extremely likely here; their advantage in experience will mean if it's a close one, it will likely go the home team's way. Manly by 18.