Eels v Wests Tigers: Lawrence returns, Taylor out
After six long weeks of gloom and doom, the sun is shining again out Parramatta way.
Spearheaded by halfback Mitch Moses's five-star performance, the Eels finally clicked on Sunday, chalking up their first win of the season with a confidence-restoring demolition job on the Sea Eagles.
This was the Parra of last year, the one that charged into the top four and had most pundits tipping big things for 2018.
One win doesn't make a season but it was a huge step in the right direction and should have the Eels in a positive frame of mind for their home clash with the Tigers, who squandered a match-winning lead in last week's loss to the Knights in Tamworth.
Wests romped to a 30-20 victory over the Eels in round four but might not have it so easy this time around.
Match: Eels vs Wests Tigers
Venue: ANZ Stadium
- Nine Network
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Parramatta Eels v Wests Tigers, 4.10pm Sunday at ANZ Stadium
Key match-up: They were teammates for a few years but Moses and his Tigers counterpart Luke Brooks are rivals these days. Maybe not off the field, but they will be stinging to get the better of each other on Sunday. Brooks is in career-best form, while Moses got back to his sparkling best in last week's thrashing of Manly. If it's close in crunch time, Brooks and Moses will both be looking for a match-winning play.
For the Eels to win: If Parra get over the Tigers forwards like they did against Manly, it will allow Moses and Corey Norman to create plenty of scoring opportunities. And if the Eels need an X-factor for something special, there's always fan favourite Clint Gutherson to energise the home crowd.
For the Tigers to win: After blowing a match-winning lead last week, the Tigers learned the hard way that no team can be taken lightly and no margin is safe. Wests built their early wins on defence and the Knights exposed a few chinks in the armour that Ivan Cleary has more than likely addressed this week. This game will tell us a lot more about the Tigers' top eight prospects.
Eels stat attack: Parra lost to the Tigers earlier this year but haven't lost to them twice in the same season in six years. The Eels need to improve their goalkicking, ranking last with a 65 per cent success rate.
Tigers stat attack: Brooks and Benji Marshall love putting boot to ball, with the Tigers far and away the NRL leaders in total kicks (150) and kick metres (3895). Wests boast the best defensive record in the competition, conceding 12.7 points per game.
And another thing: Gutherson is something of a lucky charm for the Eels. Parra have lost five of their past six at ANZ Stadium, but Gutherson has won his past six games at ANZ Stadium.
Eels: 1 Clint Gutherson (c), 2 Bevan French, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Brad Takairangi, 5 George Jennings, 6 Corey Norman, 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Daniel Alvaro, 9 Kaysa Pritchard, 10 Suaia Matagi, 11 Manu Ma'u, 12 Tony Williams, 13 Peni Terepo
Interchange: 14 Will Smith, 15 Kenny Edwards, 16 David Gower, 17 Tim Mannah (c)
The Eels will start 1-17 after Tepai Moeroa and Josh Hoffman were the last two players to drop off the bench. Bevan French returns from a shoulder injury to replace Jarryd Hayne (hip, 4 weeks) on the wing in the only change to last week's winning team. Lock Nathan Brown remains unavailable with an ankle injury. Kane Evans and Cameron King were cut from the initial 21-man squad on Saturday afternoon.
Tigers: 1 Corey Thompson, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Kevin Naiqama, 21 Mahe Fonua, 6 Benji Marshall (c), 7 Luke Brooks, 17 Sauaso Sue, 14 Pita Godinet, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Chris Lawrence, 12 Robbie Rochow, 8 Matthew Eisenhuth
Interchange: 9 Jacob Liddle, 15 Josh Aloiai, 16 Michael Chee-Kam, 18 Tim Grant
In the changes made to the squad an hour before kick-off: Mahe Fonua (No.21) will start the match in place of winger Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (out of the squad), Pita Godinet will start at hooker with Jacob Liddle moving back to the bench, Sauaso Sue comes off the bench to start at prop and Matt Eisinhuth will start at lock in the No.8 jersey. Watene-Zelezniak and Tyson Gamble were the two players to drop out of the squad an hour before kick-off. Chris Lawrence returns from a hamstring injury, but lock Elijah Taylor is out, with Josh Aloiai to start. Tim Grant has been promoted to the interchange bench, with Chris McQueen cut from the reserves 24 hours before kick-off.
Head-to-head: Played 36; Eels 20 wins, Wests Tigers 15 wins
Matches at venue: Played 13; Eels 9 wins, Wests Tigers 4 wins
2017 results: Eels won 26-22 at ANZ Stadium in round 7 and 17-16 at ANZ Stadium in round 20
Points per game: Eels 12.9; Wests Tigers 18
Points conceded per game: Eels 23.1; Wests Tigers 12.7
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Steve Turner's prediction: Parramatta showed everyone what they are capable of last weekend when they claimed their first victory of the season, while the surprise packets of 2018 the Wests Tigers were off the pace in their defeat to the Knights. The return of Clint Gutherson has been what the blue and gold needed and his energy is what the team thrives on. The Tigers are capable of turning last weekend's result around and they have shown signs they are a good football team this year, but I feel the Eels' performance against the Sea Eagles will kick-start their season and they will be too hot for the fourth-placed Tigers. Eels by 10.