Eels v Titans preview

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Parramatta Eels v Gold Coast Titans Saturday 5:30pm at ANZ Stadium

Pre-season contenders take on pre-season wooden spoon favourites in Round 21 - but as things have played out this season the Eels are now battling to keep the wooden spoon out of Parramatta whilst the Gold Coast Titans have given themselves space in the battle for the spoon.

The Parramatta Eels will be looking to make amends for last weekend after they blew a 20-6 lead over competition front-runners the South Sydney Rabbitohs. The Eels put up an 18-6 lead at half time before extending their lead out to 14 points mid-way through the second half. The Eels defence at the back end of the game left a bit to be desired after Souths were able to run in 4 tries in the last 20 minutes to consign the Eels to another defeat.

The Eels were considered to be top 4 chances pre-season but the 2018 season has been one to forget for the Eels with just four wins for the season leaving them languishing at the bottom of the ladder. The Eels season win-wise has been poor but they haven't been blown off the park by any stretch with an average loss margin of 12.5 for the season which is the 9th lowest of any side in the NRL. The Eels come into the game having lost three of their past four matches although the margin across the three defeats is just ten points with two of those defeats coming against the Dragons and Rabbitohs.

The Gold Coast Titans put themselves outside of Wooden spoon contention last weekend when they stunned everyone by ending a 3-match losing streak as well as an 8-year hoodoo against the Warriors with their 36-12 win. The Titans came into the game off a defeat against the Knights where they started the second half like a house on fire before being run down and losing 30-24. The game last weekend started the same way in the second half but were able to keep their run going and come from 12-8 down to take the 36-12 victory.

The Titans come into the game having 7 wins for the season although their season has been patchy with the Titans scoring non-back to back wins on just two of the five occasions this season. The Titans have outscored the Eels by 82 points in 2018 although defensively the Eels have been the better side with the Eels conceding 37 points less.

Last meeting: Round 24 2017 - Eels 30 Titans 8

The Eels won the last clash between the two sides although they have only won 6 of the 16 matches played between the two sides. This will be just the second match the two sides have played at Sydney Olympic Park following their clash last season.

Who to watch: Jarryd Hayne - The "Hayne Plane" has found form over recent weeks and so much so that there is talk of a potential contract for next season with the Eels. Much has been said about Hayne's return to the Eels this season after spending last season playing with the Gold Coast Titans following his return to NRL after a sojourn to America for a shot at the NFL. Since Hayne's return to the Eels side following six weeks out of the side due to injury he has been in good form with five tries in his last six matches.

Ash Taylor - A player with a star future, Taylor has never been able to live up to the hype that has seen him put in contention for State of Origin. Taylor's performances have been inconsistent with games where he stars before being non-existent in the next few matches. So far in 2018, Taylor has notched up 17 try assists as well as 12 line break assists. The biggest asset of Taylor for the Titans has been his kicking efforts forcing 11 dropouts and averaging just under 290 kicking metres per game.

The favourite: The Parramatta Eels have been installed as potentially false favourites given the Titans victory last weekend and their recent good form over their opponents.

My tip: The game is a tough one to call because if the Eels can turn their first half efforts of last weekend into a full game effort they will the game, the Titans win last weekend was crisp and their performance against the Knights was excellent for 60 minutes. The Eels won't be as bad as the Warriors were against the Titans and it's for that reason I think the Eels can overpower the Titans in a close game. Eels by 4.

1. Clint Gutherson 2. Bevan French 3. Michael Jennings 4. Jarryd Hayne 5. George Jennings 6. Corey Norman 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Siosaia Vave 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Tim Mannah 11. Marata Niukore 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Nathan Brown 14. Jaeman Salmon 15. Kane Evans 16. Peni Terepo 17. Brad Takairangi

1. Michael Gordon 2. Anthony Don 3. Konrad Hurrell 4. Brenko Lee 5. Phillip Sami 6. Aj Brimson 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Ryan James 11. Kevin Proctor 17. Will Matthews 13. Jai Arrow 14. Mitch Rein 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 16. Jack Stockwell 20. Jai Whitbread

Referees: Chris Sutton, Tim Roby; Sideline Officials: Nick Morel, Chris McMillan; Video Referees: Luke Patten, Ben Cummins;

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