Eels v Bulldogs: Schick Preview
Schick Hydro Preview: Parramatta Eels v Canterbury Bulldogs
It feels like only yesterday that some spectacular Semi Radradra heroics were sinking the Bulldogs but in reality it was six weeks ago.
It's still a short turnaround for Telstra Premiership meetings between two traditional rivals in-season and no doubt Des Hasler's men will be relishing the chance to square the ledger after what was then something of a shock loss to Brad Arthur's Eels.
Parramatta's form since Round 3 has shown that result wasn't exactly a boilover while the star that day, Semi Radradra, will come into this fresh off the news he will be making his first international appearance in his adopted country's colours a week later.
The Eels in general will be looking for a hit-back after last week's defeat but Parra lost few admirers following a hard-fought loss to benchmark side the Cowboys in North Queensland and remain fifth on the ladder with five wins and four losses.
The Bulldogs are in almost the reverse situation; winners last week against the Titans but with serious questions raised about their ability to stay in games, having coughed up a comfortable lead to almost get run down before a Josh Reynolds golden point field goal saved the day.
Neither side has any personnel changes to report; Eels skipper Tim Mannah is set to be given another week to recover from a fractured shoulder blade meaning the blue and golds are unchanged while Hasler has added two names (Lloyd Perrett and Raymond Faitala-Mariner) to an extended bench in an otherwise unchanged line-up.
Watch out Eels: As ever with Canterbury it will be their hard-running big men setting the tone and none do it better than hyper-competitive skipper James Graham. His long range (and ultimately futile) chase on a try-bound Josh Hoffman last week encapsulates his dedication but his stats highlight the threat he poses on every play.
The Dogs run for 1,536 metres per game – the fourth most of any side – and Graham is a huge component of that. His 1,376 metres at 172 per game is the fourth most of any player and the most of any forward.
Watch out Bulldogs: Contrary to the old saying, lighting can strike twice and in fact has a habit of striking repeatedly in the same place. That's what the Eels will be hoping for from their now all-Kangaroo left edge of Semi Radradra and Michael Jennings. Radradra was devastating back in Round 3, producing one of the try assists of the season and no doubt will be lifted by the news Mal Meninga has chosen him for his green and gold debut against the Kiwis on May 6. In eight games this year he has five tries, 140 metres per game, nine offloads and 30 tackle breaks to be arguably the form winger of the competition.
Key match-up: Kieran Foran v Moses Mbye. Two star halfbacks who have traditionally been viewed more as five eighths will hold the key to this one. Foran has got better as the season has progressed while Mbye probably hasn't quite been able to maintain the lofty standards he set over the early rounds, but is still a key performer for his side. Foran receives the ball a bit more (45 receives against 40 for Mbye) while each has five line break assists. Mbye has actually laid on twice as many four-pointers, setting up six tries to Foran's three so far in 2016.
The history: Played 139; Eels 59, Bulldogs 75, Drawn 5. The Dogs have a powerful recent run against the Eels: prior to their Round 3 loss they had downed the blue and golds in nine of their previous 10 meetings.
What are the odds: Money is running 10:1 in favour of Parramatta in the head-to-head market with Sportsbet. Despite the obvious leaning towards the Eels, most of the money in margin betting is on Parramatta 1-12 rather than 13+. Semi Radradra has understandably been the best backed for first try scorer. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Gerard Sutton. Assistant referee: Adam Devcich. Sideline officials: Russell Turner and Jeff Younis. Review Officials: Ben Galea and Jason Robinson. Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live coverage from 7.30pm; Fox Sports 1 – Live coverage from 7.30pm.
The way we see it: A tough one to tip no matter how you cut it. There's not much between the recent form of both sides and whoever gains the early momentum could well go on with it. With Parramatta's recent run of outs both at ANZ Stadium and against Canterbury seemingly behind them, we'll tip the Eels to add one more to their 'W' column with a hard-fought four-point win.