Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Top four hopefuls aim for no slip-up against spoon-bound cellar-dwellers
On paper this is another of those fairly predictable match-ups. Parramatta head to Robina with one mission - beat the last-placed Gold Coast Titans and keep their top four hopes - however unlikely they may be - alive.
One of the Eels' issues this season has been form on the road - they've won just 4 of 10 games away from their ANZ and Bankwest homes this season. It's on this negative point which Titans fans may be able to hang their hats. Gold Coast, on the other hand, just need wins.
The Titans are indeed headed for the wooden spoon. Once in a race with the Bulldogs for the dreaded utensil, they now sit six points adrift of the pack they chase, which also features the Dragons and Cowboys. With just four games remaining, the Titans need to win at least three and rely on differential - or all four matches - to avoid the ignominy of 16th place in a 16-team competition.
So Parramatta will need to be careful. The Titans were competitive in last Saturday's clash at Kogarah, eventually falling 40-28 to the Dragons. If the Eels take them lightly, they may have to settle for a small victory or worse still, a loss. A loss would almost certainly see them lose their chance at finishing top four.
Both sides have one new name from last week - the Titans welcome back Michael Gordon on the bench which sees Leilani Latu drop out, while the Eels bring back late scratching Kane Evans at prop, the result of which is Dan Alvaro shifting back to the bench and Tepai Moeroa out of the 17.
Last meeting: Round 21 2018 - Eels 28 Titans 12
Who to watch: Both locks are of interest in this contest - Jai Arrow has been in and out of the Gold Coast side this season owing to injury, but is arguably one of the best players interim coach Craig Hodges has at his disposal. Limited game time this season (just 13 of 20 matches) has seen his side's impact diminish this season, but his personal input has been solid, and was rewarded with retention of his spot in the first Origin match this season, before he succumbed to injury which prevented further appearances.
Nathan Brown has similarly missed out game time this season, after a pectoral injury sustained in the season opener against Penrith saw the Eels' workhorse miss three months of football. Since his return in Round 13, the blue-and-gold have lost just two of eight matches and are all but certain to play finals footy. His presence and performances will be key if Parramatta are to be a challenger in September.
The favourite: The Eels are well backed to win this contest.
My tip: After doing just enough to beat sides outside the eight in recent weeks, it's difficult to see Parramatta laying down against the side running last. The Titans will give them a fight, yes, but in the second half look for the Eels outside backs to fire and pile on the points as the visitors seek a decent boost to their differential. Eels by 32.
1. Alexander Brimson 2. Jesse Arthars 3. Kallum Watkins 4. Brian Kelly 5. Phillip Sami 6. Tyrone Peachey 7. Ryley Jacks 13. Jai Arrow 9. Mitch Rein 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Sam Stone 21. Nathan Peats 10. Jai Whitbread 14. Michael Gordon 16. Bryce Cartwright 17. Brenko Lee
1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Brad Takairangi 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Kane Evans 9. Reed Mahoney 16. Daniel Alvaro 11. Shaun Lane 12. Manu Ma'u 13. Nathan Brown 14. Peni Terepo 15. David Gower 17. Marata Niukore 18. Tepai Moeroa
Referees: Peter Gough, Gavin Badger; Sideline Officials: Liam Kennedy, Nick Morel; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Bryan Norrie;