PARRAMATTA EELS V NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS – 8.00PM (NZT)/6.00PM (AEST) FRIDAY, MAY 18 @ ANZ STADIUM
The Storylines: The Warriors are coming off easily their worst performance of the season and despite their Round 11 opponents’ last-place billing, they are under more pressure than at any stage in an otherwise charmed 2018.
The Warriors were awful in a 32-0 loss to the Roosters at home last Saturday, starting with intent but switching off defensively and ball control-wise as soon as the visitors began putting some pressure and points on.
While they are well-placed in third with a 7-3 record, their ordinary for-and-against could see them slip as low as eighth by the end of the weekend with their fourth loss in six games.
And for the first time this season, the Warriors will be without their inspirational captain and fullback, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who is sitting out the trip to attend the birth of his first child.
Issac Luke has been named in a huge boost – his dummy-half influence was sorely missed last week – but halfback Mason Lino is under an injury cloud after hobbling off against the Roosters. Karl Lawton shaped as the most obvious halves replacement, but his naming in the ISP team and the inclusion of Gerard Beale and Anthony Gelling in the reserves could mean a five-eighth shift for Peta Hiku should Lino be ruled out.
The 2-8 Parramatta Eels sit 16th and are entering do-or-die territory – which makes them a dangerous opponent.
But after rallying with excellent wins over Manly and Wests Tigers, the blue-and-golds were poor in losses to Sydney rivals Cronulla and Canterbury.
Remarkably, Mitchell Moses’ name has been catapulted into the NSW Origin halfback debate; he’ll need to lead the Eels to victory here to be any chance of a surprise (and dare I say unwarranted) debut call-up.
Arthur expecting a tough contest against the @NZWarriors tomorrow night.
— Parramatta Eels (@TheParraEels) May 17, 2018
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) May 17, 2018
The History: Played 38 – Eels won 21, Warriors won 17.
-The Warriors have won four of their last six against Parramatta, but the Eels have won two of the last three.
-The Eels have won three of their last four against the Warriors in Sydney.
-Eight of the last 10 encounters have produced 42-plus points.
-Six of the last nine clashes between the clubs were decided by 13 points or more.
-The Warriors have won just two of their last nine at ANZ Stadium; the Eels are 13-8 at their adopted home since the start of last year (2-4 this season).
-Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has a career-high eight tries in eight games against the Eels.
-Corey Norman has won just two of 11 games against the Warriors in his career.
3 Key Match-ups
Adam Blair v Manu Ma’u: Blair started well against the Roosters but ultimately the biggest impact he had was goading the Roosters forwards in the dying minutes and getting Jared Waerea-Hargreaves put in the bin. Has been very good at times but his work-rate is still not up to scratch for a No.13. Better known as a dangerous edge forward, Ma’u makes an interesting shift to lock this week for just the second time in his career. Will it blunt his impact, particularly on attack?
Blake Green v Corey Norman: Mason Lino has been exposed in his last couple of games and may not play due to an ankle injury, which elevates Green’s importance to the Warriors’ cause even more. He’s been great this year but really needs to take control after a low-key showing against the Roosters. Norman has been enigmatic to say the least, but remains one of the NRL’s most dynamic halves
Peta Hiku/Gerard Beale/David Fusitu’a/Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad v Clint Gutherson: RTS is a massive out and Stephen Kearney has a huge call to make as to who will fill the custodian void. Fusitu’a was a regular option during RTS’s 2016 absence, with mixed results – he’s a powerful runner but very limited as a ball-player. Hiku and Beale both have NRL finals and Kiwi Test experience at the back, though Beale is probably too underdone. Nicoll-Klokstad would handle fullback on his ear but has only played wing in first grade. I’d pick Hiku with Beale coming in at centre, but have a feeling ‘Fus’ will get the nod with CNK slotting in on the flank. Meanwhile, Eels talisman Gutherson is co-captain and has made a big impact after returning from a long injury layoff, but he has an in-goal howler that handed last week’s game to the Bulldogs to make up for.
— Parramatta Eels (@TheParraEels) April 21, 2018
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) May 16, 2018
Last Time They Met: On a frustrating night at ANZ Stadium, the Warriors hit back from a 26-12 deficit midway through the second half to trail by just two, only to fade out in the dying minutes and go down 32-24.
Why We’ll Win: The Warriors have a better team and – last weekend notwithstanding – far superior form on the board. Stephen Kearney would have applied the blowtorch at training this week, while their previous follow-up performances after losses have been top-shelf. The Eels have the worst attack in the comp and pretty ordinary defensive resolve.
Why We’ll Lose: This is the most pressure the Warriors have been under in 2018 – it’s certainly a new challenge. The health of Luke and Lino is a major concern, Tuivasa-Sheck’s influence will be sorely missed, and a poor record at the cavernous ANZ Stadium also doesn’t provide a great deal of confidence. The Eels are a streaky team and with Moses, Gutherson, French, Norman and Jennings at their disposal, can put 20 points on you before you’ve realised what’s happened – plus they’re desperate.
The under is 20-10 in Parramatta games at ANZ. The under has hit in 11 of Parramatta’s last 13 after they have conceded 20-plus. Parramatta have covered just 1 of their last 8 off a loss. Interstate favourites off a loss of 20-plus are 6-1 against the line. FULL TAB PREVIEW
On the Advantage Line NRL podcast this week, Alex, Teddy and Paul discuss Cam Smith's shock Origin annoouncement and give their best bets for Round 11.
— TAB Sport (@TAB_Sport) May 16, 2018
An NRL fan managed to turn $10 into $4,480 from just three games over the weekend!
— TAB Sport (@TAB_Sport) May 14, 2018
The Verdict: In some ways this is one of the Warriors’ most important games of the season. There’s no free passes in the NRL but if they’re truly a top-eight team, the Warriors have to take care of the cellar-dwellers on the reg. The Warriors are significantly under-strength but they’ve got a lot more going for them than the Eels. Gotta keep the faith here. Warriors by 6