While the 2018 #NRL Pre-Season is still a few weeks away, there's a bunch of warm-up clashes happeni...
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Parramatta look to avoid four straight losses as the Warriors aim to build upon a last-gasp win over the Gold Coast.
After entering Round 5 with just one victory to their name - a four point one over the last placed Knights, it was safe to say that the Warriors were desperate for a win. And in the end they produced an impressive second half display, downing the always gallant Titans by six points after trailing by ten at half time. A win this week is still particularly important as, despite last week's result, a loss would see the Warriors slip further away from the Top Eight with a differential of -32 doing them no favours. Of even greater concern is the fact that the Warriors have conceded at least 22 points in every single one of their games this season. That alone speaks volumes of their true premiership credentials as you simply cannot win the competition which such defensive frailties. Helping their cause this week, however, is the fact that they have won 3 of their past 4 against the Eels.
Similarly, Parramatta's season has seen a recent dip with three straight losses to the Titans, Sharks and Raiders. Those three losses have consequently coincided with a concerning dip in ball handling with the Eels making 40 errors in the past three weeks. Numbers like that will cripple any side's chances of winning games and it is crucial they clean this up considering the attacking threats which the Warriors possess. With a spot in the Top Eight slowly slipping away the Eels will also be desperate for victory on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately for them Bevan French will miss the clash with a PCL injury with Clinton Gutherson filling it at fullback.
Although the Eels have only won 1 of their past 4 against the Warriors, it was a big win by the tune of 40-18 at Mt Smart Stadium in Round 26 last year.
Who to watch: An interesting selection this week. Shaun Johnson's efforts will definitely have a bearing on this clash, yet, I am also looking forward to hopefully seeing a complete performance from back rower Bodene Thompson, who has struggled with injury and concussion recently. Thompson can charge through similar holes to the one Ryan Hoffman took advantage of last weekend in the match winning try against the Gold Coast and similarly will look to build upon his relationship with new recruit Kieran Foran, with Thompson's running game close to the line an asset for the home side.
For the Eels, you can look no further than halfback Corey Norman. Although Johnson may be the star for the Warriors, Norman is just as influential for Parramatta and has started the 2017 season in solid fashion. With three try assists, two line breaks and a try to his name, Norman needs his side as a whole to cut down their errors so he can be given a better opportunity to control the game with his pin-point kicking game (as proven in his spectacular 40/20 in last week's loss to Canberra).
My tip: Last minute victories over the struggling Knights and injury-ravaged Titans at home do not in one way convince me that the Warriors are anywhere near their best at the moment. The fact that they are yet to concede under 22 points is also very concerning. Despite their form slump I have seen more from the Eels to suggest that they can reverse their fortunes this week. Eels by 10.
1. Roger Tuivasa-sheck 2. Blake Ayshford 3. David Fusitua 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kieran Foran 7. Shaun Johnson 15. James Gavet 9. Issac Luke 10. Jacob Lillyman 11. Bodene Thompson 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Simon Mannering 14. Nathaniel Roache 8. Charlie Gubb 16. Sam Lisone 17. Ligi Sao
6. Clint Gutherson 2. Semi Radradra 3. Michael Jennings 20. Kirisome Auva'a 5. Josh Hoffman 4. Brad Takairangi 7. Corey Norman 8. Suaia Matagi 9. Kaysa Pritchard 10. Tim Mannah 11. Manu Ma'u 16. Frank Pritchard 14. Nathan Brown 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Beau Scott 17. Siosaia Vave 19. Peni Terepo