Schick Hydro Preview: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Parramatta Eels
What a difference a week makes.
In Round 1 the Bulldogs looked like world beaters in their 22-point win over Manly.
Six days later, Penrith ran rampant over them for 79 minutes and 40 seconds only for Moses Mbye and Kerrod Holland to somehow steal the competition points for the Bulldogs with a late try and goal respectively.
On the flip side the Eels were beaten rather comprehensively by Broncos in Round 1 before they bounced back in spectacular fashion to beat reigning premiers North Queensland last Saturday night.
The Eels have lost Manu Ma' u (suspension) and Nathan Peats (elbow) for this one. Kenny Edwards and Isaac De Gois will start in the back row and hooker respectively while David Gower comes on to the bench.
Last start match-winner and debutant Holland will return to the Intrust Super Premiership as well with Chase Stanley (hamstring) named to return in the centres.
David Klemmer will also fight his charge of making contact with an official on Wednesday night at the judiciary. If he is cleared he will line up for his 50th NRL game.
Watch out Bulldogs: Something has to give for the Eels' left edge; it's too damn good to continue the way it has been going. Semi Radradra would be an Australian international if he was eligible while his inside man Michael Jennings is already a rep star for state and country. Radradra in the past has been the Eels' main attacking weapon; surely with the pair combining on the left they should start causing havoc for opposition defences sooner or later.
Watch out Eels: The loss of Ma'u and Peats could prove costly. In the opening fortnight of the season Ma'u has easily been the Eels' best, and bar the often targeted Clinton Gutherson has been their biggest metre-eater so far this season. Parramatta will miss a certain punch without the fearless back-rower.
Key match-up: Josh Reynolds v Kieran Foran. Twelve months ago any suggestion of Josh Reynolds being a 'calming influence' for his team would have raised a few eyebrows, but that's exactly what he's become at the Bulldogs in life after Trent Hodkinson. Kieran Foran has been such a figure his entire career and his first game at his new club brought many positives in Parramatta's win over the reigning premiers. A battle of minds will be as important as the battle of body when it comes to these two, with Foran not expected to train until the captain's run on Friday as he manages his ongoing hamstring issues.
The history: Played 138; Bulldogs 75, Eels 58, Drawn 5. The Bulldogs have had the wood over Parramatta for the past five seasons. Only once in their last 10 games have Parramatta prevailed over the Bulldogs (back in 2014). The Bulldogs are scoring fiends against the Eels and have managed 13-plus victories in five of their past nine wins.
What are the odds: The money is running 60-40 in favour of the Eels, who have been a bit of a firmer with Sportsbet since they upset the Cowboys. Most punters are taking Parramatta to win by 1-12 as well as the line, where they're receiving the start. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Matt Cecchin. Assistant Referee: Alan Shortall. Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis and Peter Gough.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 7:30pm; Fox Sports 1 – Live coverage from 7pm
The way we see it: The Eels recorded a huge and unexpected victory over Manly early on last year, only to be burnt by the Bulldogs the very next week. We're leaning towards the Bulldogs on history alone because in reality very little separates these sides. The loss of Peats and Ma'u won't help Parramatta's cause compared to Canterbury's consistent line-up. Bulldogs by 2 points.