The Parramatta Eels have had a season to forget, with a side everyone thought capable of challenging for the premiership they are languishing at the bottom of the table. In recent weeks there has definitely been more signs of fight and life in their play however their execution is still lacking. Out of finals contention they are playing for pride and a few players are playing for a spot in the side with not a single player in good form.
The Newcastle Knights enjoyed a flying start to the season and have slowly been pegged back despite the continued brilliance of Kalyn Ponga. Mitchell Pearce’s injury has slowed the cohesion of the team and they now look unlikely to make the eight.
An Origin weekend neither side loses a player to the great inter-state series with the current form of both sides largely affecting players credentials.
2017 – Round 23 – Newcastle Knights 29 def. Parramatta Eels 10 at ANZ Stadium
2016 – Round 12 – Parramatta Eels 20 def. Newcastle Knights 18 at McDonald Jones Stadium
2015 – Round 7 – Parramatta Eels 28 def. Newcastle Knights 22 at McDonald Jones Stadium
2014 – Round 25 – Newcastle Knights 42 def. Parramatta Eels 12 at McDonald Jones Stadium
2014 – Round 16 – Newcastle Knights 16 def. Parramatta Eels 10 at Pirtek Stadium
The last time these sides met it was the Newcastle Knights springing a surprise upset on the Eels who were pushing for a top 4 spot. As this fixture stands it’s almost a complete change of fortunes for both sides. The Knights couldn’t buy a win for much of last season and now have five already this year with a building side and the Eels have a miserly two.
|Parramatta Eels||Newcastle Knights|
|1||Bevan French||Kalyn Ponga|
|2||Josh Hoffman||Ken Sio|
|3||Michael Jennings||Sione Mata’utia|
|4||Brad Takairangi||Corey Denniss|
|5||George Jennings||Shaun Kenny-Dowall|
|6||Clinton Gutherson||Connor Watson|
|7||Mitchell Moses||Jack Cogger|
|8||Daniel Alvaro||Jacob Lillyman|
|9||Cameron King||Slade Griffin|
|10||Siosaia Vave||Daniel Saifiti|
|11||Manu Ma’u||Lachlan Fitzgibbon|
|12||Tepai Moeroa||Mitchell Barnett|
|13||Peni Terepo||Aidan Guerra|
|14||Will Smith||Danny Levi|
|15||Suaia Matagi||Chris Heighington|
|16||David Gower||Jamie Buhrer|
|17||Marata Niukore||Josh King|
|18||Nathan Brown||Luke Yates|
|19||Kirisome Auva’a||Brent Naden|
|20||Jaeman Salmon||Nick Meaney|
|21||Kane Evans||Pat Mata’utia|
The facts that matter
The effort has been there in the last couple of weeks however it needed to be there since the start of the season. Now that they are trying new attacking structures it will takes it time to stick and it’s all too little too late.
Boast excitement machines in Bevan French and Clinton Gutherson. If Mitchell Moses can help bring them into the game their natural brilliance will cause problems for the Knights defensive line which leaked 48 points last weekend.
The Eels showed against the Warrios a few weeks ago they’re at their best when offloading the ball for the quick and elusive outside backs. Last week against the Broncos Terepo and Alvaro both presented opportunities for second phase play only for no one to back them up. Turn that around and more points will be on the board no doubt.
Playing for pride however it may be a big motivator. No side wants the dreaded wooden spoon and the Knights could tell Parramatta all about that. The Eels need to see their season now as a chance to finish it off positively and get back to enjoying their football and giving the fans something to cheer about.
They look a side that despite being much changed in cavalry this year have benefitted largely from the resilience they forged after a few long and lean seasons. Continue to show up every week and put up a worthy fight they just lack the direction and instinctual playmaking of Pearce.
The Knights need to improve their defence being the worst in the competition, last week was no anomaly. They are still such a young side and that lack of experience may be an indicator of a lack of trust in defense. They need to turn it around at ANZ or risk watching their season completely fall away.
Nathan Brown is brutally candid in every post-match press conference and you know he will have his men prepared for this one, no different to any other week. They need a win here to show they are heading in the right direction as a club.
The Newcastle Knights are without Mitchell Pearce still for at least another five weeks yet despite also losing four in a row have showed more signs of life than Parramatta. Additionally the Knights have not had the off-field struggles or distractions of the Eels who despite two wins this year have not had a polished performance as yet.
Ponga oozes confidence for the Knights and with it rubbing off on others and the fact their attack looks better than that of the Eels, I cannot go past a Newcastle victory by 8.
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