Round 19 will commence with a clash between traditional rivals, the Eels and Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium. Both teams have had largely forgettable seasons, and have less than no chance of participation in the finals. The main objective for each side is to avoid the wooden spoon.
The Eels come into this match on the back of a narrow loss to the Knights in Newcastle. The blue and golds were certainly on track for a win, having raced to an early 10-0 lead. Moreover, they thought they had jagged a win at the death, only to be denied a try by the officials, due to Bevan French having his foot into touch, in the act of scoring. This means that they have lost their third consecutive match, to remain anchored at the foot of the ladder.
The Bulldogs are also coming into this match on the back of a loss, only this time it was to the Rabbitohs 24-6. The scoreline may seem somewhat lopsided, but the match was actually substantially closer than what it suggested, as the Doggies tried their hearts out and threw everything at the ladder leading Rabbitohs. However, it proved to be in vain, as the class and quality of the Bunnies proved telling in the end. Despite the loss, the Dogs managed to leapfrog the Cowboys into 14th place, after the Cowboys were beaten convincingly by the Raiders.
Regardless of the rather lowly position that the adversaries find themselves in, there is still an abundance of emotion to be on show in this match. That is always the case whenever the Eels and Bulldogs meet. There will be added motivation for both teams, especially with regards to the wooden spoon. The Eels will be desperate to climb off the bottom of the ladder, while the Bulldogs will be eager to get as far away from the bottom as possible, while potentially consigning their bitter rivals into last place. Another factor in this match is the fact that Bulldogs coach Dean Pay was a player for both sides, and is regarded as a legend for both clubs. However, given the circumstances of this match, his focus will be to ensure his current side avoids the dreaded wooden spoon.
2018 – Round 10 – Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 20 def. Parramatta Eels 12 at ANZ Stadium.
2017 – Round 22 – Parramatta Eels 20 def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 4 at ANZ Stadium.
2017 – Round 17 – Parramatta Eels 13 def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 12 at ANZ Stadium.
2016 – Round 9 – Parramatta Eels 20 def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 12 at ANZ Stadium.
2016 – Round 3 – Parramatta Eels 20 def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 6 at ANZ Stadium.
The Eels have defeated the Bulldogs in four of their five most recent encounters. However, it was the Bulldogs who won the most recent encounter between the two rivals. Had it not been for a knock on by Eels speedster Michael Jennings, and a fundamental error by cult hero Clint Gutherson, which resulted in a Bulldogs try, it could well have gone the way of the Blue and Golds, meaning they could have had a fifth consecutive victory over their bitter rivals. Unfortunately for the Eels, that is not the case. As for their overall encounters, the Bulldogs have won 83 matches, while the Eels won 65 of these matches, followed by five drawn matches.
To further emphasise the long-standing rivalry between the two sides is the fact that there have been several finals matches between the pair, including two grand finals. The first grand final was in 1984, in which the Bulldogs won 6-4. The Eels would get their revenge over their fierce rivals two years later, with a 4-2 victory, in what was a try-less encounter. Unfortunately for the Blue and Golds, this would be the last time they would taste grand final success. However, the memorable part of that victory is that it came against their fiercest of rivals.
|Parramatta Eels||Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs|
|1||Clint Gutherson||Will Hopoate|
|2||Bevan French||Brett Morris|
|3||Michael Jennings||Josh Morris|
|4||Jarryd Hayne||Kerrod Holland|
|5||George Jennings||Reimis Smith|
|6||Corey Norman||Lachlan Lewis|
|7||Mitchell Moses||Jeremy Marshall-King|
|8||Daniel Alvaro||Aiden Tolman|
|9||Kaysa Pritchard||Michael Lichaa|
|10||Siosaia Vave||David Klemmer|
|11||Marata Niukore||Josh Jackson|
|12||Brad Takairangi||Rhyse Martin|
|13||Nathan Brown||Adam Elliott|
|14||Tepai Moeroa||Fa'amanu Brown|
|15||Tim Mannah||Clay Priest|
|16||David Gower||Ofahiki Ogden|
|17||Peni Terepo||Danny Fualalo|
|18||Kane Evans||Greg Eastwood|
|19||Jaeman Salmon||Matthew Frawley|
|20||Suaia Matagi||Francis Tualau|
|21||Reed Mahoney||John Olive|
The facts that matter
Last week, the Eels had appeared set for a big win, having raced out of the blocks to lead 10-0 in the first nine minutes. Unfortunately, their unwanted habit of letting their opponents back in the match came back to haunt them, as they allowed the Knights back into the contest and were deadlocked at 10 points apiece at the interval. The second half proved to be an arm wrestle, and the match would be decided by a Knights penalty goal. However, if it were not for a foot into touch in the dying minutes by the Eels while scoring a try, the would have pinched victory. They were certainly good enough for a win, having made more metres, line breaks and offloads, while missing fewer tackles. However, their poor completion rate and Ill-discipline proved their undoing.
For all of the poor performances by the Eels this season, there are some favourable statistics in which their supporters can take plenty of heart from. They include: being ranked first for charge downs (8), fourth for intercepts (5) and fourth for kick metres (7988). And as mentioned earlier, despite their lowly position, they showed last week that they are more than capable of playing decent football. As long as they improve on last week’s performance, they have every chance of winning this match. However, the mere fact that they have scored fewer points than any other team, as well as the fact that they have conceded the third most points this season, with 392, truly exemplifies whey they have found themselves in this position since the opening rounds. Only the Knights and Titans have conceded more points.
The Eels have a home record of three wins and five losses, which is unsurprisingly up there with the worst in the competition. They have actually only won two of these matches at ANZ Stadium, which came against the Tigers and their other bitter rivals, the Sea Eagles. Their other home victory came against the Cowboys in the top end in Darwin. Should they lose this match, it will have meant their bitter enemies will have won the dreaded double over them, which is something they will want to prevent.
The Bulldogs were defeated 24-6 by the Rabbitohs, however the game did minimal justice to their brave efforts. After the Doggies opened the scoring with a penalty goal, the Rabbitohs would score the next 18 points, to lead 18-2 in the second half. However, the Blue and Whites simply refused to surrender, and were duly rewarded with a try. It was only due to strong defence by the Rabbitohs that denied the Dogs any further points, and with less than 10 minutes remaining, the game was put to bed when the Rabbitohs scored another try. Similar to their opponents for this match, the Doggies were certainly in the contest, having dominated the offloads and possession, as well as conceding fewer penalties and missing fewer tackles. However, they were also the victim of a higher error count and an inferior completion rate. Former Bulldogs junior, Damien Cook was the chief tormentor in last week’s match.
Similar to their bitter rivals, the Bulldogs have some encouraging statistics to take heart from, such as: first in total runs (2947), fourth in metres gained (26159), first in post contact metres (8852), fourth best conversion rate (82%), as well as third in dummy half runs (245). Also similar to their opponents is their rather disappointing numbers in attack and defence, which makes their rather lowly position apparent. In attack, the Bulldogs have scored the fourth fewest points, behind only the Eels, Tigers and Cowboys, with 279. Their defence has conceded 360 points for the season, which is the sixth worst in the competition. Exemplifying this is their ineffective tackle count, with 289, behind only the Roosters.
The Bulldogs’ away record is nothing short of appalling, with only two wins, followed by seven losses. Their two wins came against the Cowboys and Knights, in front of traditionally vocal supporters for their opponents. This shows that they are more than capable of deploying the old school Dogs of War mentality. Although, they are playing at a ground they call home, they will be the away side, and the fans of their bitter rivals will be eager to give them a hostile reception. This means that they have a golden opportunity to showcase the Dogs of War approach, as a victory will go a long way to avoiding the dreaded spoon, while consigning the NRL’s unwanted prize to their adversaries. Coach Pay will also be eager to have his troops do the double on the other team he represented as a player, meaning there is no room for sentiment in this match.
As alluded to on a number of occasions, this match will have no shortage of fireworks, whether it be from the players or the supporters of either team. There is an abundance of history between the two sides, ever since the Eels entered the competition in 1947, and this history includes a couple of titanic grand final clashes, in which the victories are shared between the adversaries. Regardless of how poorly the sides are faring in the season, it is almost a safe bet that they will aim up against one another, which means that this will be no exception.
Although the finals are well and truly out of reach for both sides, there is still an abundance to play for. As well as local pride, there is still a chance that either side could finish with the unwanted prize of the wooden spoon. This is another reason why both sides will stop at nothing to absolutely batter the living daylights out of one another. Moreover, despite being rightly considered a legend at both clubs, Bulldogs coach Dean Pay will be showing little sentiment toward his other club, as his focus will be fixated towards ensuring his club finish the season without the spoon.
As for this match, it’s very much a toss of the coin as to who finishes on top, given how poorly both teams are performing. The Bulldogs are currently ahead of the Eels by one win, but their points differential is vastly superior to their rivals. Therefore, although the Eels will undoubtedly rip into the Bulldogs, I feel that the Dogs’ slight superiority in attack and defence will just see them over the line. Bulldogs by 2.
Who will come out on top when two of the league's struggling clubs meet at Sydney's ANZ Stadium? Let us know in the comments and poll below.