Schick Hydro Preview: Parramatta Eels v Melbourne Storm
With an eventful off-field opening to the season at the Eels now starting to quiet down, Parramatta host the Melbourne Storm at Pirtek Stadium on Monday night.
The Eels gave up a 14-point second-half lead to the Rabbitohs last Friday in a 20-22 loss, while the Storm put in one of their best performances of the season in a hard-fought 15-14 win over the Cowboys on Saturday.
The one-point victory sees the Storm record their fourth consecutive win, and moves them up to third on the ladder. The Eels slipped to 6th position after their loss, and move to a record of six wins and four losses.
Parramatta have named the same 17 that faced South Sydney in Round 10, but the Storm have had to make yet another change to their outside backs.
Ben Hampton tore his left calf in the first half of the Storm's Round 10 clash with the Cowboys, and has been replaced in the centres by Tohu Harris, as Kenny Bromwich moves alongside Kevin Proctor to start in the back row.
Watch out Eels: While it has taken some time for the Storm to get their attack into gear, they’ve arguably produced their best three performances of the season to date over the past three weeks. Before the Storm's gritty one-point win over the Cowboys on Saturday night, they kept the Titans and Warriors to zero points in back-to-back weeks, and scored 80 of their own. Melbourne have won four on the bounce and are hitting form right before the notoriously tough Origin period, so they'll be hungry to add another win to the list before the bye rounds begin.
Watch out Storm: If there's any part of the Storm's 17 that looks the most vulnerable, it has to be their outside backs. With a new combination almost every game, it's hard for the backline to find continuity, something that can't be said for the Eels. Parramatta's backs have been firing all season led by Semi Radradra and Michael Jennings, who have scored 14 tries between them. With another outside back in Ben Hampton missing for the Storm on Monday night, look for the likes of Radradra in particular to continue on his scoring trend.
Key match-up: Michael Gordon v Cameron Munster. At 32 years of age, Michael Gordon is the most experienced member of the Eels backline. At just 21 years of age, Cameron Munster may well be one of the most experienced members of the Storm backline over the course of the season. Both players have had an impressive start to the year, with Munster in particular stepping up in the absence of Billy Slater, and cementing himself in an ever-changing Storm backline. Whichever backline can get on top will go a long way in their team winning the game, so look for both Gordon and Munster to will their sides on to victory.
The history: Played 30; Eels 12, Storm 18. The Storm have the slight advantage according to the head-to-head record between these two sides, and the past five meetings tell the same tale. Melbourne have edged Parramatta 3-2 over the previous five encounters, with surprisingly both away sides winning the two contests in 2015.
What are the odds: Despite starting as outsiders, 97 per cent of the money Sportsbet has taken is on the Storm to defeat the Eels. Punters are split on the Storm’s winning margin, with 1-12 and 13+ strongly backed, with just four punters tipping the Eels can win by 13 points or more. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant referee: Adam Gee. Touch judges: Russell Turner, Chris Sutton. Review Officials: Ben Galea, Matt Cecchin. Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live coverage from 6.30pm (AEST).
How we see it: After such an impressive display by the Storm in knocking off the reigning premiers last Saturday night, the Eels will need to be at their best to put a halt to Melbourne's current four-game streak. If the Eels can get out to an early lead and put pressure on the Storm from the outset they could just do it, but the Storm should have too much class in this one. Storm by 8.