Eels v Knights: Attacking weapons Norman and Ross sidelined
They went down fighting last week against the Broncos but the Eels are a shadow of their 2017 selves and wallowing in last spot with a 2-10 record halfway through the season.
Daniel Alvaro and Peni Terepo penetrated Brisbane's defence at times but weren't supported enough after creating potential opportunities for second-phase play. This week Parra take on a team that has also struggled lately and should like their chances of winning in front of their home crowd.
The Knights have basically arrived at a make or break point in terms of finals aspirations. After winning five of their first eight games, they have now lost four in a row to be sharing 10th spot with the Raiders.
Newcastle have relied so heavily on 20-year-old fullback Kalyn Ponga since Mitchell Pearce's injury that he finally had a quiet game in last week's 48-10 thrashing from the Sharks. He was marked closely all day and left the field in the first half after copping a whack from Luke Lewis.
Nathan Brown was filthy with his team's performance and will be counting on a much tougher effort against the Eels, who are basically playing for pride for the rest of the season.
Key match-up: It wasn't long ago that Michael Jennings was one of the best centres in the game. Those days are seemingly long gone but he isn't exactly washed up, even if he did lose the ball over the try-line twice last week against Brisbane. Jennings will line up opposite Cory Denniss, who hasn't made an NRL appearance since 2016 and will play just his second game at centre. Parra would love Jennings to rediscover the form that once made him an automatic NSW Origin selection. Jennings has an excellent strike rate against the Knights with 10 tries in his last 11 games against them so Denniss will have his hands full.
Match: Eels vs Knights
Venue: ANZ Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
For the Eels to win: Maybe it's time for coach Brad Arthur to throw the offensive playbook away and put the onus on the players to conjure something on their own. Nothing else has really worked for 12 games so it's probably worth seeing if the Eels can think up a new game plan centred around playing on instinct.
For the Knights to win: Someone other than Kalyn Ponga has to take some on-field ownership of this team or the losing streak won't stop anytime soon. The Knights have to get back to basics and play with hardness in defence like they did in the earlier rounds when they were winning. They need to look for any signs of indecision among the struggling Eels and exploit it with authority.
Eels stat attack: Not that Parra fans needed anything else to dread, but the Eels have been on the wrong end of eight of their past 10 meetings with Newcastle and haven't beaten them in Sydney since 2009. Clint Gutherson has scored seven tries in his past eight games at ANZ Stadium.
Knights stat attack: Defence has to be the main focus on Saturday after the Knights conceded a massive 146 points in their past four games. They are giving up 28.5 points per game after 12 rounds, which ranks them dead last in points allowed.
And another thing: There was a theory doing the rounds earlier in the season that Jarryd Hayne was somehow to blame for the Eels' horrible form and that they were better off without him. But then Hayne got injured and Parra have gone right on losing (2-10 record). There are obviously other factors involved in the club's miserable season and an off-season roster shake-up now seems inevitable.
Parramatta Eels v Newcastle Knights, 7.35pm Saturday at ANZ Stadium
Eels: 1 Bevan French, 2 Josh Hoffman, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Brad Takairangi, 5 George Jennings, 6 Clint Gutherson (c), 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Daniel Alvaro, 9 Cameron King, 16 David Gower, 11 Manu Ma'u, 12 Tepai Moeroa, 13 Peni Terepo
Interchange: 14 Will Smith, 15 Suaia Matagi, 17 Marata Niukore, 18 Nathan Brown
David Gower starts at prop with Nathan Brown returning from an ankle injury via the bench. Siosaia Vave drops out of the side, and Kirisome Auva'a drops off the extended bench. Jaeman Salmon and Kane Evans were given the chop 24 hours out from kick-off.
Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Sione Mata'utia, 4 Cory Denniss, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Jack Cogger, 8 Jacob Lillyman, 9 Slade Griffin, 10 Daniel Saifiti, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Mitchell Barnett, 13 Aidan Guerra (c)
Interchange: 14 Danny Levi, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jamie Buhrer (c), 17 Josh King
The Knights are 1-17, with Luke Yates and Nick Meaney dropping off the extended bench on game day. Brent Naden and Patrick Mata'utia were cut from the reserves on Friday night.
Head-to-head: Played 49; Knights 27 wins, Eels 21 wins, 1 draw
Matches at venue: Played 2; Knights 2 wins
2017 result: Knights won 29-10 at ANZ Stadium in round 23
Points per game: Eels 14.2; Knights 17.5
Points conceded per game: Eels 22.3; Knights 28.5
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Steve Turner's prediction: It's a game that will see the 16th-ranked attacking team tackle the 16th-ranked defensive team. This season has been a real struggle for Parramatta and with only two wins next to their name, they're a side that are down on confidence and in desperate need of a victory. Brad Arthur needs to work his magic to get his side up for this week's clash with the Knights. Newcastle have lost their past four matches and after last weekend's loss to the Sharks are down on confidence. A young side who are lacking consistency and since the injury to Mitchell Pearce, they have struggled in the halves. Nathan Brown needs more from his six and seven, but it won't be good enough this week.
Tip: Eels by 4