Round 15: Eels v Rabbitohs preview
ANZ co-tenants face off with contrasting seasons providing an interesting counterpoint deep into the Origin period.
Despite their ladder positions, these sides both come in as last-start winners. Last-placed Parramatta took a home game to Darwin and it paid dividends with the blue-and-gold coming away winners over a surprisingly poor Cowboys outfit who had dismantled Manly just a week prior. The Bunnies were without their four Origin stars but still managed to do enough to win on the road against the Titans.
The irresistible force coming into this game is the Rabbitohs - the cardinal and myrtle are on a six-game winning streak that's set to extend to seven if they can overcome their less-fancied opponents from Sydney's west.
Parramatta's win last week, on the other hand, comes with an interesting caveat - Mitch Moses was unavailable through injury, and they looked better for it. With a rearranged spine (Bevan French at fullback, Clint Gutherson & Corey Norman in the halves) the Eels looked more fluent in attack than they have most of the season. With Moses still a week or two away from returning, how this spine performs against a more formidable opposition will be interesting to watch.
A quick look at teamlists suggests the Eels will have more grunt in the forward pack with Manu Ma'u back in the second row, the only change Brad Arthur has made to a winning side. South Sydney on the other hand have a glut of alterations with the return of their Origin quartet - Inglis and Gagai come in as the centre pairing which pushes Adam Doueihi to the bench and Hymel Hunt to the reserves, while Angus Crichton (second row) and Damien Cook (hooker) are also back which pushes Cam Murray to the interchange and Robbie Farah to the reserves. Interchange pair Mark Nicholls and Tyrell Fuimaono push back to the reserves as well.
This will be the 125th time these sides have met - the Bunnies have the wood on the Eels 67 to 54 with just three draws across the 124 matches so far. At ANZ it's the Bunnies by a similar margin - 9 wins to 5 over 15 clashes with one draw. Parramatta won both clashes last year by the same 22-16 scoreline.
A feud 71 years in the making.
Catch the full history of our clashes with the Eels: https://t.co/d9svo8GGax#GoRabbitohs pic.twitter.com/dW8C0wOzpl
— South Sydney Rabbitohs (@SSFCRABBITOHS) June 12, 2018
And a big congratulations to Michael Jennings, who laces up for NRL game 250 after a long career with the Panthers, Roosters and now the Eels. It's an all-Jennings affair with brother George alongside him in the Eels backline, while other brother Robert is in jumper #5 for the Bunnies this Thursday.
TEAM LIST | @M_Jennings_03 to play his 250th NRL game this week against the Rabbitohs at @ANZStadium!
See the Blue & Gold line up BA has named: https://t.co/4JQM1CHZx7 #blueandgold pic.twitter.com/ZUs1FSYkAX
— Parramatta Eels (@TheParraEels) June 12, 2018
Who to watch: It's been a while since Jarryd Hayne and Greg Inglis faced off in an NRL match - four years, in fact. They've faced off more often at rep level than in club footy but this will be the first time since 2014 that they've taken each other to task.
For Hayne, his return to the Eels has been patchy and stuttering at best. After his NFL sojourn, he spent an indifferent season-and-a-half at the Gold Coast before playing the prodigal son and returning to the blue-and-gold. Injury has hampered his chances of playing consistent footy this year and just a week back from his latest issue and with some match fitness now under his belt, there's been no better time for him to lift.
G.I.'s fortunes are the opposite. After lifting the trophy in 2014, the man responsible for the 'goanna' struggled through several injury-plagued campaigns, but has managed to stay fit in 2018 and is experience what many would call a renaissance. Named captain of the Maroons this year following a spate of rep retirements, Inglis in vintage form will be hard for Parramatta to contain.
My tip: Even allowing for the Eels' solid victory last week, it's hard to see a South Sydney side with their stars back in tow losing this one. But the Eels won't just lie down, either. Rabbitohs by 6.