Fresh off the back of a rare win against fellow cellar-dwellers North Queensland, the lowly Parramatta Eels will play host to the red-hot South Sydney Rabbitohs in the opening fixture of round 15.
In a boost for the Eels, they will welcome back Manu Ma’u to the starting side. Star half Mitchell Moses has also been named on an extended bench and is a chance of pushing his way into the starting side if he can prove his fitness in time. However, as if Parramatta’s task wasn’t already difficult enough, South Sydney’s Origin stars Angus Crichton, Dane Gagai, Damien Cook and skipper Greg Inglis all return to the side.
The Eels were quite frankly lucky to escape with a 20-14 win over the Cowboys last week, who kept Parramatta in the game by making a whopping 20 errors, several of which were forward passes leading to disallowed tries. South Sydney also escaped with a 18-16 win over the Gold Coast, defending their way to victory as the Titans went on the attack in the second half.
With Parramatta not even having a mathematical chance of a finals berth, they have little to play for other than pride. South Sydney however, will not want to let their guard down. With a spot in the top four and possibly top two up for grabs, the Rabbitohs will not want to drop two points against the Eels.
2017 – Round 26 – Eels 22 def. Rabbitohs 16 at ANZ Stadium
2017 – Round 12 – Eels 22 def. Rabbitohs 16 at ANZ Stadium
2016 – Round 15 – Eels 30 def. Rabbitohs 12 at ANZ Stadium
2016 – Round 10 – Rabbitohs 22 def. Eels 20 at Pirtek Stadium
2015 – Round 11 – Rabbitohs 14 def. Eels 12 at ANZ Stadium
The recent results act as something of a desert oasis of hope for Eels’ fans. They have had the wood on the Rabbitohs in recent times, winning the last 3 and losing the 2 prior by just 2 points on each occasion.
The facts that matter
The Eels have won just three games this season. With 10 games and a bye remaining, they would need to win every single game this season to have a chance of making the finals. After showing so much promise with a top 4 finish in 2017, the results this season are simply not good enough and serious questions will be asked come the end of the season. Until then, there is little for the Eels to play for—other than pride.
The prospect of Mitchell Moses taking the field is exciting although it will probably mean that Clint Gutherson moves somewhere into the back 5. Look for Michael and George Jennings to have big games against their younger brother Robert too.
In stark contrast to the Eels, the Rabbitohs have plenty to play for. They sit in third place on 20 points behind Penrith and St George Illawarra, both on 22 points. The key here is that the Rabbitohs have a bye in hand while the Panthers and Dragons do not. The Rabbitohs also have a healthy for and against of 103, again behind the Panthers and Dragons on 110 and 111, respectively.
They will look to cement their place in the top 4, and possibly even challenge for a top 2 spot later in the season. They will not want to let their guard down and drop what appears to be an easy two points against the Eels. Look for the Dane Gagai to have a big game. Coming off the back of an Origin loss and with Corey Oates breathing down his neck, Gagai will want to impress the QLD selectors ahead of Game 2.
This season has been a nightmare for the Eels. For me, they are simply unbackable against any opposition, let alone the third-placed Rabbitohs. South Sydney know the importance of this game – any points picked up during the Origin period for top sides are a huge bonus come the end of the year. They will not let their guard down. Rabbitohs 13+
Can the Eels notch back-to-back wins or will the Bunnies prove too strong? Let us know in the comments and poll below.
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