NRL preview

NRL Tips expert Steve Green previews Thursday night footy between the Parramatta Eels and Penrith Panthers. The home side has turned in two disappointing performances in a row and will be looking to hit back hard in this one, while the Panthers sit anchored to the bottom of the ladder and in desperate need of a morale boost.

 

Parramatta Eels vs Penrith Panthers

These teams played in Round 1 in what was a thrilling contest at Panthers stadium. The Eels got the win, but the Panthers played ok and the problems that exist at the foot of the hill were not evident at the time. But since then the Panthers have only managed to win two games. One of them was a 2 point win over the Knights in Round 2, and the other was a miracle escape against the Tigers, where they came from 8-2 down with 2 minutes left to win in golden point time. In all 10 games, they have not played what could be described as a really solid game of footy.

The Panthers therefore are sitting dead last and last week’s loss against the Warriors, at home, was a new low. At the 70th minute mark, the Warriors led 24-0. The Panthers let in some ridiculously soft tries, none more so than when Paasi carried 4 Panthers defenders 10 metres. Kikau back-peddled next to his team mates yelling instructions, rather than helping out his smaller team mates…I haven’t seen anything like it.

And just today we get confirmation that some players want out, with DWZ requesting a release 18 months before his contract was due to expire. DWZ was captain and fullback for NZ during the 2018 test series against England. He finished the 2018 season in sensational form, and so for him to be shafted for Dylan Edwards (who shouldn’t even be in front of Aekins) shows to me that Coach Cleary is rattled.

However, I admit there are also some worrying signs at the Eels. Their last two performances have been their worst of 2019, with the Storm flogging them in Brisbane and then the Cowboys getting over the top of them in Townsville. They will therefore be very happy to be back in Sydney playing at their new stadium.
And it is important to note just how good the Eels have been at Bankwest stadium. In their two games against Wests and Dragons (both teams were playing far better than the Panthers are at present), the Eels managed to score 83 points and concede only 24.

Coach Arthur has reacted to their 2 losses by shifting Ferguson to the centres (not sure about this, but could boost his involvement in attacking situations, which is a good thing) and welcomed back the return of Siko from suspension…which is massive. They really missed him against the Cowboys. I also like the promotion of Gower to the bench and think the big back rower provides a lot attacking strike power off the bench.

Statistically, both of these teams have their defensive issues and both rank poorly in terms of missed tackles and line breaks conceded…so I think we will see some points scored on the fast track. However, in attacking terms, the Eels have shown they are far more lethal with the ball in hand.

The Eels have made 51 line breaks in 2019, second in the NRL…whereas the Eels have made only 36, which is 5th worst in the NRL. The Eels are also coming 4th in metres made, whereas the Panthers are dead last on that important metric…and they are last by a mile (making less than 800 metres than the 2nd worst team, the Titans!).

While Luai promotion for the suspended Maloney is something I have been calling for a while (he will boost their attack), his defence was shown up last weekend and the Eels dangerous fringe forwards will run at him all day long.

At home, and with a better team, I would have had the Eels 10 or 12 point favourites. Happy with the action we have on the line, but I also think that the total points is too small.

 

Predicted Score:
Eels 28
Panthers 16

 

Suggested Bet: Parramatta -5.5

 

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NRL preview