The Parramatta Eels have the unenviable task of travelling to Melbourne to take on the Minor Premiers in week one of the finals series. The winner goes straight to the preliminary final while the loser gets a second chance against the of Sharks vs Cowboys clash. Both sides come into this match in excellent form. The Storm are riding a seven game winning streak while the Eels have lost once in their last 10 weeks.
Melbourne have almost been toying with their opposition in recent weeks. They have towelled up the Knights, Souths and Raiders since their come-from-behind win against the Roosters. The Eels put on a show for the fans at Suncorp against the Broncos but the 34 points they leaked is a concern. Parramatta never really got out of second gear when overcoming the under-strength Rabbitohs last week.
Can Parramatta’s attack cause a boilover or will the 2017 Premiership favourites come out on top?
2017 – Rd 18: Parramatta def. Melbourne 22-6 at AAMI Park
2016 – Rd 11: Melbourne def. Parramatta 18-6 at ANZ Stadium
2015 – Rd 14: Parramatta def. Melbourne 26-22 at AAMI Park
2015 – Rd 9: Melbourne def. Parramatta 28-10 at Pirtek Stadium
2014 – Rd 15: Melbourne def. Parramatta 46-20 at AAMI Park
The Storm have won three of the last five meetings and seven of the past 10 encounters. Parramatta’s most recent wins came earlier this season and in 2015 but Melbourne were without several key figures with it being the State of Origin period on both occasions.
There are only two Parramatta players in this line-up who weren’t involved in their match earlier this season while nine of the 17 were involved the Eels’ win two years ago so they know how to come out on top against the Storm.
|Billy Slater||1||1||Will Smith|
|Suliasi Vunivalu||2||2||Semi Radradra|
|Will Chambers||3||3||Michael Jennings|
|Curtis Scott||4||4||Brad Takairangi|
|Josh Addo-Carr||5||5||Kirisome Auva’a|
|Cameron Munster||6||6||Mitchell Moses|
|Cooper Cronk||7||7||Corey Norman|
|Jesse Bromwich||8||8||Daniel Alvaro|
|Cameron Smith||9||9||Cameron King|
|Jordan McLean||10||10||Tim Mannah|
|Felise Kaufusi||11||11||Manu Ma’u|
|Tohu Harris||12||12||Tepai Moeroa|
|Dale Finucane||13||13||Nathan Brown|
|Kenny Bromwich||14||14||Beau Scott|
|Nelson Asofa-Solomona||15||15||Kenny Edwards|
|Tim Glasby||16||16||Siosaia Vave|
|Slade Griffin||17||17||Suaia Matagi|
|Jahrome Hughes||18||18||Kaysa Pritchard|
|Robbie Rochow||19||19||Josh Hoffman|
|Joe Stimson||20||20||David Gower|
|Young Tonumaipea||21||21||Frank Pritchard|
Dale Finucane is back in the Melbourne side while Tim Glasby rejoins the bench. The Eels have named the same 17 that played Souths to close out the regular season but you can expect Siosaia Vave to take Daniel Alvaro’s spot in the front row, as has been the case in recent weeks.
The Facts That Matter
The Storm’s dominance over this competition has been clear as day and dates back to the beginning of the season. They started 2017 with five wins on the trot and haven’t looked back since, finishing the season with both the best attack and defence while two of their four defeats came in the Origin period. They haven’t tasted defeat since the beginning of July and Parramatta know they’ll be coming up against a completely different beast to the one they faced in round 18. Melbourne kicked into overdrive post Origin, conceding an average of just nine points per game while scoring 35 and embarrassing almost all of their opponents in the final seven rounds.
They have been absolutely ruthless and rarely tested all year. They have won eight games by six points or less this season, with last year’s Premiers Cronulla being the only side to successfully grind them out and that was in round six. The Storm will welcome a set for set battle and if that’s the Eels’ game plan then the men in purple will be confident of yet another victory.
How do the Eels solve rugby league’s most difficult equation? Their results have been good but their form has been a little indifferent over the last two months. The manner in which they overturned a 12-0 deficit after seven minutes against the Broncos in round 21 was very impressive before they were slick in putting 52 points on the same opposition a few weeks later. But narrow wins over the Dogs, Tigers and Rabbitohs were much less convincing while they were completely off their game against the Knights. That definitely won’t be an issue coming up against the best side in the competition but can they rise to the occasion and cause a huge upset?
One thing’s for sure, they’ll need to be at their very best. Even though the Storm were down on troops during their previous meeting, the fact of the matter is that the Eels are the last side to defeat them and that is bound to inspire the blue and golds. This finals clash is likely to come down to the half-backs of both teams but the battle of the wingers is worth the price of admission alone. Suliasi Vunivalu and Semi Radradra have both been in scintillating attacking form but the one who can defend better may well be on the winning side. Both have a tendency to rush up and leave space on their outside. They exposed each other in similar situations when the team’s last met. Brad Arthur will be looking to shore up the opposite flank as well with Kirisome Auva’a finding himself in no-man’s-land on several occasions last week.
Parramatta seems to be in the impossible situation, having to travel to Melbourne to take on the red hot Minor Premiers. They do essentially have a free crack at them considering a loss doesn’t end their season and that sense of freedom could benefit them. The Storm are notorious for getting in front and grinding out their opposition so you’d think the Eels will have to start fast and make Melbourne the game. While Parramatta’s attack is dangerous, their defence won’t be able to hold up against the best team in the NRL. Melbourne by 8.
Who will come out on top in this blockbuster finals footy clash, the Storm or the Eels? Let us know in the comments and poll below.
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