2 days ago
Eels v Dragons preview
Will the real St. George Illawarra Dragons please stand up?
A loss to the last-placed Eels would be well and truly rock bottom for Paul McGregor's men.
However, given Parramatta's recent form, it wouldn't be a shock.
The Eels cruised to a comfortable 28-12 win over the Titans last week and will be desperate to continue their surge away from the wooden spoon.
Despite the victory, there are plenty of changes for Parramatta this week. Corey Norman shifts to fullback, Clinton Gutherson moves into the centres, Jarryd Hayne is on the wing and rookie Jaeman Salmon fills in at five-eighth with Bevan French dropped.
It is a good sign for the club. Coach Brad Arthur demands success and it appears to be coming.
Since beating the Cowboys, Parramatta have been on the improve. They came agonisingly close to beating the first-placed Rabbitohs, toppled the Titans and Bulldogs and again were just pipped at the post by Newcastle.
Confidence doesn't seem to be that big an issue for Arthur's side anymore. They appear to have regained some belief in themselves.
After conceding two tries within the space of four minutes last week against the Gold Coast, the Parramatta of old would have crumbled.
This Eels side is different. They went on to score four of the next five tries and will want revenge on Saturday night after the Dragons snatched victory from them in their last meeting.
The Red V, however, are the complete opposite. They look to be lacking any confidence in themselves and their game plan.
The Dragons shot to the top of the ladder after dominating up front.
After all, New South Wales Origin representatives Tyson Frizell, Paul Vaughan, Tariq Sims and Jack de Belin were all from their forward pack.
However, recently they appear to have abandoned this approach and instead tried to go around teams.
It didn't work for them last week as they failed to take advantage of prime field position in a 18-12 loss to the Warriors.
Parramatta's forward pack has been arguably their greatest weakness in 2018. If the Dragons can exploit that it will certainly only help their chances on Saturday night.
Last meeting: Round 16 2018 - Dragons 20 Eels 18
Who to watch: Will a positional change bring the best out of Corey Norman? The misfiring five-eighth has been moved to fullback this week as part of a massive reshuffle. Norman's future is up in the air and many think he is too inconsistent to be picked up by another club. He may not have a place at Parramatta but strong performances may just be enough to see him stay in the NRL.
Meanwhile, the Dragons will only win on Saturday night if they dominate the contest up front. It is a much tougher prospect this week without Paul Vaughan. In his place is hulking prop Leeson Ah Mau, who ran for 144 metres in just 52 minutes last week. Ah Mau has been one of the Dragons' most underrated players this season and will play a key role in their chances as we head towards September.
The favourite: Despite their form slump, the punters are still backing the Dragons to bounce back.
My tip: Both teams will be equally desperate but for different reasons. The Eels, however, have had more desire in recent weeks and they will heap more pressure on the Dragons. Parramatta by 4.
1. Corey Norman 2. Jarryd Hayne 3. Michael Jennings 4. Clint Gutherson 5. George Jennings 6. Jaeman Salmon 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Siosaia Vave 9. Reed Mahoney 15. Kane Evans 11. Marata Niukore 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Nathan Brown 14. Will Smith 19. David Gower 16. Peni Terepo 17. Brad Takairangi
1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 19. Nene Macdonald 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 11. Tyson Frizell 17. Luciano Leilua 12. Tariq Sims 13. Jack de Belin 10. Leeson Ah Mau 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Kurt Mann 16. Blake Lawrie
Referees: Adam Gee, Gavin Badger; Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis, Liam Nicholls; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Ben Galea;