The Parramatta Eels finally got the monkey off their back with a first win of the 2018 season last weekend against the Sea Eagles and they'll be hoping to go back-to-back and get revenge on another side which handed them a defeat over the first six weeks of the season, the Wests Tigers.
For their part, the Tigers have been the surprise packet of the campaign and still sit high on the ladder despite a disappointing 22-20 loss to the Newcastle Knights in regional Tamworth.
Ivan Cleary has worked his magic and looks to have crafted a competitive outfit at the Tigers and although there are some signs they might be regressing to the mean, they'll back themselves against an Eels side which is yet to find any consistency or rhythm.
On a weekend where ANZAC spirit and memories of those who have served our great country are vivid and at the forefront, the Eels have handed extra leadership responsibility to superstar Clint Gutherson and there'll be plenty of hope that his return will continue to have a positive impact.
2018 - Round 4 - Wests Tigers 30 def. Parramatta Eels 20 at ANZ Stadium
2017 - Round 20 - Parramatta Eels 17 def. Wests Tigers 16 at ANZ Stadium
2017 - Round 7 - Parramatta Eels 26 def. Wests Tigers 22 at ANZ Stadium
2016 - Round 21 - Wests Tigers 23 def. Parramatta Eels 8 at ANZ Stadium
2016 - Round 4 - Parramatta Eels 8 def. Wests Tigers 0 at ANZ Stadium
Say what you will about this fixture, but at least there's consistency in the venue. The last 10 clashes between this pair have been played at the former Olympic venue ANZ Stadium as both sides use it as a home ground.
Recent form has also been fairly patchy between the two. The Tigers banked a handy win against the hapless Eels earlier this season, but the blue and golds have definitely improved and will be out for revenge of sorts this Sunday afternoon.
Prior to that, the Eels notched two straight wins over the Tigers last season, which is not all that surprising given the struggles of Wests and the strong season Parramatta put together in 2017.
Interestingly, these two clubs first met in 2000 after the merger of Western Suburbs and Balmain and played out a 14-14 draw at the famous Leichhardt Oval.
Matt Seers and Mark Stimson grabbed tries for the Tigers while future Tigers hero Brett Hodgson and Andrew Ryan scored for Parramatta. Since then, the two clubs have played a total of 36 times with the Eels winning 20 games, the Tigers 15.
|Parramatta Eels||Wests Tigers|
|1||Clint Gutherson||Corey Thompson|
|2||Bevan French||David Nofoaluma|
|3||Michael Jennings||Esan Marsters|
|4||Brad Takairangi||Kevin Naiqama|
|5||George Jennings||Malakai Watene-Zelezniak|
|6||Corey Norman||Benji Marshall|
|7||Mitchell Moses||Luke Brooks|
|8||Daniel Alvaro||Matt Eisenhuth|
|9||Kaysa Pritchard||Jacob Liddle|
|10||Suaia Matagi||Ben Matulino|
|11||Manu Ma'u||Chris Lawrence|
|12||Tony Williams||Robbie Rochow|
|13||Peni Terepo||Elijah Taylor|
|14||Will Smith||Pita Godinet|
|15||Kenny Edwards||Josh Aloiai|
|16||David Gower||Michael Chee Kam|
|17||Tim Mannah||Sauaso Sue|
|18||Tepai Moeroa||Tim Grant|
|19||Kane Evans||Chris McQueen|
|20||Josh Hoffman||Tyson Gamble|
|21||Cameron King||Mahe Fonua|
The facts that matter
While everyone in the media is, or at least should be, trying to keep a lid on the hype around Clint Gutherson following his return to the field for the Eels and it coinciding with their first win of the season, it's hard to not get excited about how brilliant he can be and the impact he will have on an Eels side that still looks somewhat in transition as a playing group.
When the Tigers beat the Eels in Round 4 this season, they did so with no Gutherson on the field and while the Eels have plenty of other concerns on-field, the return of Gutherson has definitely closed the gap between them and the 3-4 sides directly above them on the ladder.
The Eels were ruthless in decimating the Sea Eagles last week and have closed the gap to the Cowboys, Bulldogs, Sea Eagles and Raiders to just two points on the competition ladder.
One win does not a season make, but victory over the Sea Eagles has given the Eels the chance to move forward and with that particular monkey off their back, they can now look to build combinations and partnerships and look to develop.
This week, Bevan French returns to the wing following a shoulder injury. French takes the place of Jarryd Hayne who looks set for a month on the sidelines with a hip injury. There are no other changes to the side that put Manly to the sword last Sunday.
The Tigers will come into the one hurting after dropping two valuable competition points in Tamworth last week. The Knights scored the match-winner through Shaun Kenny-Dowall in the 78th minute adding to the heartbreak and a next-up clash with the Eels offers a good chance to get things back on track and cut down a side which will be growing in confidence after a first win of the season last week.
Ivan Cleary's side a probably the best defensive unit in the league right now and there's every chance the orange and black wall will be hard to penetrate once again. It's safe to say the Tigers have definitely moulded into the vision of their coach, tough, uncompromising and valiant.
Corey Thompson has been a bit of a revelation in his own right at the Tigers, forcing Tui Lolohea out of the side completely and laying claim to the fullback berth, and there'll continue to be plenty of expectation around him being more involved in sweeping backline movements and attacking play moving forward.
The Tigers will also be out to shut-down former halfback Mitchell Moses. Moses has been patchy since his mid-season switch to the Eels last year and there's plenty of feeling amongst the fans and playing group for how he went about securing his departure from the club.
Chris Lawrence returns from a hamstring injury, pushing Josh Aloiai to the bench. Alex Twal drops out of the team.
The Eels put together their best performance of the season last weekend and they were able to showcase just what they can do when confidence is high. With Clint Gutherson returning and taking over a key role in organising the attack there's every chance they will continue to improve on that side of the ball.
That said, there are few sterner tests in the game right now that the Wests Tigers in defence. They've been very impressive so far this season and it's hard to imagine them giving up too many points to a side still fumbling to develop an attacking rhythm.
If I have to call it, and that's why we're here, I'll go with the Tigers by less than a converted try.
Can the Eels make it back-to-back wins, or will the Tigers bounce back from a last-start loss? Let us know in the comments below.