Parramatta Eels vs Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks: Lineups, preview and predictions

ANZ Stadium, Saturday 24th March, 7:30 pm AEDT.

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Overview

Here, we have the second of the double-header matches at ANZ Stadium, featuring a battle between two winless and out of form sides, who have performed well below expectations, despite how early the season is. Given what has been said, it seems rather perplexing that one side will emerge from this match with three losses to start their season. 

After squandering a 14-0 lead against their local rivals, the Panthers, the Eels played another traditional rival in the Sea Eagles, and were held scoreless, while conceding a half-century of points. Both matches in oppressive and scorching conditions away from home, and it would seem apparent that the Eels have struggled to adapt to the heat. 

The Sharks were ordinary against the Cowboys in the opening round and were fortunate not to have been beaten by a greater margin. In their last outing, similar to the Eels’ opening round game, they too squandered a 14-0 lead against a local rival, which in this case was the Dragons. However, unlike the Eels, Sharks had home advantage in one of their matches and neither match was in oppressive conditions. Having said that, the Sharks did not allow either of their defeats to result in blowouts. 

Both teams will be desperate to open their respective accounts for 2018, and have an opportunity to do so here, as each side battles for the Johnny Mannah Cup, in honour of the younger brother of Eels skipper Tim Mannah. Johnny Mannah played for both clubs and passed away in early 2013, due to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Recent meetings 

2017 – Round 4 – Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 20 def. Parramatta Eels 6 at ANZ Stadium. 

2016 – Round 17 – Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 34 def. Parramatta Eels 24 at Southern Cross Group Stadium. 

2015 – Round 25 – Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 35 def. Parramatta Eels 28 at Pirtek Stadium. 

2014 – Round 21 – Parramatta Eels 32 def. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 12 at Southern Cross Group Stadium. 

2014 – Round 9 – Parramatta Eels 42 def. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 24 at Pirtek Stadium. 

As can be seen from the aforementioned recent meetings, the Sharks have emerged victorious in 3 of the last 5 outings. In fact, the men from the Shire lead the overall head-to-head meetings with 46 victories, to the Eels’ 42. However, the aforementioned statistic suggests that there is an even spread of victories between the sides. This means that this contest is highly likely to be tightly contested.

Selected teams

Parramatta Eels Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
1 Bevan French Josh Dugan
2 Josh Hoffman Sosaia Feki
3 Michael Jennings Jesse Ramien
4 Jarryd Hayne Ricky Leutele
5 Kirisome Auva’a Valentine Holmes
6 Corey Norman Matt Moylan
7 Mitchell Moses Chad Townsend
8 Daniel Alvaro Andrew Fifita
9 Cameron King Jayden Brailey
10 Tim Mannah Matt Prior
11 Manu Ma’u Jason Bukuya
12 Tepai Moeroa Wade Graham
13 Nathan Brown Paul Gallen
Interchange
14 Beau Scott Kurt Capewell
15 Kenny Edwards James Segeyaro
16 Suaia Matagi Ava Seumanufagai
17 Kane Evans Joseph Paulo
Reserves
18 Will Smith Kurt Dillon
19 Peni Terepo Jack Williams
20 David Gower Edrick Lee
21 Kaysa Pritchard Luke Lewis

The facts that matter 

Eels 

Ever since the 27th minute against Panthers, the Eels have failed to register a solitary point against their opposition, while conceding a grand total of 78 points. Halfback Mitchell Moses has twice been sin-binned in as many weeks (for a professional foul in round 2 and dissent in round 2) and was constantly exposed by Sea Eagles attack. He has been touted as a potential candidate for a spot in the NSW, however with his current form, he is doing little in proving his worth for Origin call-up. 

Moreover, Jarryd Hayne is not having the desired impact and is seeing precious little ball.
The Eels have missed a total of 91 tackles in their opening matches (50 against the Sea Eagles), while conceding 22 penalties in their opening matches (12 against Manly). They have made 24 errors (12 in each match) which saw them see only 31% of the ball last weekend. 

Both matches were played in stifling conditions, and they appeared unable to adjust accordingly to them.

Sharks 

After being almost perfect against the Dragons in first half, the Sharks ‘ issues of poor ball security came back to haunt them, much like it did against the Cowboys. This was an issue that plagued them during their failed attempt to defend their premiership. Over the last fortnight, the men from the Shire committed 27 errors (15 against Cowboys). Moreover, the Sharks missed 78 tackles in past two matches (40 against Dragons). 

Valentine Holmes’ form a shadow of what it has been, making numerous errors against both Cowboys and Dragons. He has stated that his preferred position is fullback – played there against Cowboys, and produced a rather substandard display. After that performance, he was moved to wing against Dragons to minimal effect. 

The Sharks’ inability to convert lions’ share of possession into points last week proved costly, as they only led by 10 points at halftime, and were eventually run down. Moreover, their ill-discipline proved crucial in their previous defeats, conceding 22 penalties in both matches (12 against Dragons).

Prediction 

With both teams desperate to nab their first win in 2018, you can rest assured that there will be a multitude of fireworks in this match, as both teams rip into each other. Moreover, both sides are eager to play in the honour of Johnny Mannah, whose name the cup is named after. No doubt both sides will be hurting after losing both their opening matches, especially to their local rivals. 

Now that the Eels won’t be playing in the scorching heat, and will be playing in a home game in front of their supporters, we can expect them to come off the canvass with a vengeance. Similarly, we expect the Sharks to be stung into action after their losses, especially with one of their losses being at home to their bitter rivals. 

In what can be described as a flip of the coin, I will predict the Eels to just get themselves over the line. Eels by 2.

Which side will grab their first win of the 2018 season?  Let us know in the comments below.

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