Eels v Sharks preview

Parramatta Eels v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Pirtek Stadium
Saturday, 3:00pm

They've ruined the finals chances of Sea Eagles and now the Parramatta Eels hope to play spoilers again as they face top-four aspirants the Cronulla Sharks. 

In wet conditions last week the Eels' tough pack dominated, and this week they receive a further boost with captain Tim Mannah set to return at prop. 

But they won't be expecting such an easy passage up the middle this Saturday afternoon against a seasoned Sharks pack featuring hard heads such as Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Michael Ennis.

With those experienced stars and some scintillating youngsters out wide, Cronulla easily put away the Wests Tigers 40-18 last week. 

They're unchanged from that in-form outfit this week.

With a few big name stars going down injured from teams currently above them on the ladder, the boys from the Shire will know this is an amazing opportunity to seal a top four spot.

They'll have to beat Manly next week and hope the Bunnies lose one of their remaining two to do so.

Meanwhile the Eels moved themselves out of wooden spoon range with their upset victory last week. 

Now they're just playing for pride.

 

Watch Out Eels: Valentine Holmes just keeps getting better and after two tries last week is primed for another huge performance at home. Holmes has burst onto the scene this year, thanks to his amazing acceleration and poise under pressure to kick many game-winning field goals for his team. If things go down to the wire in this one, the Sharks will be looking for him to step up and seal the win. They'll also look for him to manufacture points out of nothing with his amazing running game. Eels beware. 

Watch Out Sharks: The danger man Semi Radradra is by far the most important player for the Sharks to contain. This week Cronulla talked about how they were going to limit the the Fijian flyer's involvement, Luke Lewis saying: "Hopefully we can keep him down the other end of the field." And that may be the only way to stop this season's top try-scorer from getting over the line. Semi had a brace of tries in a typically outstanding performance last week and will be looking to wrap up the top try-scorer award with another couple against Cronulla. Meanwhile the Sharks will have to get numbers in front of Radradra on Saturday afternoon and will have to work hard to minimise his involvement running the ball from his own end. 

Key Match-Up: Corey Norman v Jack Bird. Two exciting, ball-running five-eighths go head-to-head in what should be a classic battle on Saturday afternoon. Norman is the more experienced of the two, and has the better ball-playing game, as shown by his amazing cut-out pass to set up a try for Radradra last week. But the stand-in Eels captain doesn't quite possess the power running game of the dynamic Bird, who's shown many times this season how difficult he is to tackle, particularly when he starts showing off his fend. 

History: Played 80; Eels 39, Sharks 41. A brilliant two-try performance from Jarryd Hayne saw the Eels defeat the Sharks 32-12 last time these two sides met.

What Are The Odds: The money is running three-to-one in favour of the Sharks according to Sportsbet and Cronulla have been very popular in line betting, where they’re conceding the start. Not surprisingly, Semi Radradra has been the best backed in the first try-scorer market. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.

Match Officials: Referee: Matt Ceccin. Assistant Referee: Grant Atkins. Touch Judges: Russell Turner, Chris Sutton. Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Luke Patten.

Televised: Fox Sports, Live, 3:00pm.

The Way We See It: The Eels' confidence will be soaring from last week but the Sharks will be a big step up. With Tim Mannah returning, their pack should keep them in the game, but Cronulla should have too much experience and toughness to let the Eels into it. We're tipping the Sharks to get the win by eight points.