Round 7: Eels v Sea Eagles preview
Game of the round looms as winless Parramatta take on abysmal Sea Eagles
The record for the lowest crowd in the history of the NRL could be broken on Sunday afternoon. Be there and be part of history!
That is the only way possible I can see NRL CEO Todd Greenberg advertising this weekend's game between Parramatta and Manly. The Eels are yet to win a game in 2018 and even more concerning is that they are not even improving. Parramatta have scored 46 point this season, an average of just 7.7 points per game. 30 of those points came in the first half of Round One against Penrith and in a twelve-minute period when the Wests Tigers switched off. Coach Brad Arthur understands that his team's season is already on life support as he reached out earlier this week to Swans mentor John Longmire to see how his side went from losing six-straight games to winning 14 of their remaining 16 matches to finish in sixth position last year. Arthur can also look to the Panthers of 2017 who lost seven of their opening nine games before charging home to finish the regular season in seventh position. In team news, Jarryd Hayne (quad) returns on the wing in place of Bevan French (shoulder) sidelined. Brad Takairangi (fractured eye socket) also returns at centre for Kirisome Auva'a (ribs). Kane Evans starts at prop and Peni Terepo shifts to lock with Tepai Moeroa (concussion) also unavailable.
While Manly have not had as bad a start to 2018 as Parramatta, their loss to the Tigers last week has placed immediate pressure on both the playing group and head coach Trent Barrett. The 38-12 defeat was the lowlight of the Sea Eagles' 2018 season with the team booed off the field at half time. A 60% completion rate proved their undoing while crowd favourite Tom Trbojevic was clearly hampered after rushing back from an ankle injury suffered a fortnight ago. Having claimed a 54-0 win over the Eels earlier this year, the Sea Eagles will be looking to Sunday afternoon's contest as the perfect chance to bounce back from last week's embarrassment.
The Brookvale faithful gave the playing group an opposite reception to last week when they outclassed Parramatta 54-0 in Round 2 this year.
Who to watch: Clint Gutherson was solid returning from injury last week and could be just what Parramatta need to spark their stuttering attack. ‘The Guth' finished with four tackle busts and 110 running metres in a side that did not even score a try and should continue to improve as his teammates do so.
Meanwhile, look for Apisai Koroisau to continue to stake his claims for an Origin berth on Sunday afternoon. The speedy No. 9 has been a significant reason for Manly's success in recent years but his influence was hindered last week as errors meant that the Sea Eagles had few attacking opportunities with the ball. Similarly to Gutherson and the Eels, an improved team effort will bring the best out of Koroisau.