Parramatta aim for best start since 1993, while the Titans search to get season back on track.
There wouldn't have been too many NRL fans that would have correctly predicted that the Parramatta Eels would have been top of the ladder with two wins from two starts - and the Gold Coast Titans languishing in 14th position yet to register a win, heading into this Round 3 clash before the season started. However, that is how it sits at the moment, so this Friday night matchup has a lot on the line even if Jarryd Hayne doesn't get to play against his former club.
Gold Coast have had a treacherous start to season 2017, with Hayne's name featuring regularly in the back pages of the papers on the sunshine strip, not to mention the side's struggles in the opening fortnight of the season after assembling an expensive squad during the off season. Last week's defeat to a much improved Newcastle side would have been humbling, but this was after they were thoroughly outclassed at home against the Sydney Roosters in Round 1. It looms as a very important clash for the Titans who will not want to slip to a third consecutive loss to start the season. At home expect them to show some fight, and more intensity that has been severely lacking in the opening fortnight.
Parramatta have surprised many (apart from maybe their own fans) with their performances in the first two weeks. They put the St George Illawarra Dragons to the sword last week in a match where they displayed how potent they can be attacking-wise as Michael Jennings, Bevan French and Semi Radradra ran riot. The experienced forward pack is churning through metres and work and laying a platform for the backs to do their thing.
If the Eels are to have success again on Friday look for the forward pack to have a huge involvement. Of particular mention is Manu Ma'u who gained 152 metres from 18 carries last week to go along with 28 tackles and 2 offloads.
Parramatta is on track to record its best start to the season since 1993 (when it won its first three games of the season, which were also all away from home). The Eels will again be on the road but if its performance in the first two weeks is anything to go by, the Parramatta boys very much enjoy playing on the road!
The Titans went away with the spoils in last season's corresponding fixture which extended the dominance the Queensland side has had over Parramatta since it came into the competition in 2007. In 15 matches Gold Coast holds a 10 games to 5 advantage over the Eels. At Cbus Super Stadium, the Eels have won just two out of eight visits to the ground, and last won there in 2014.
Who to watch: The home side will be hoping for an extra attacking effort from half back Ashley Taylor in the absence of Jarryd Hayne. Taylor has been great for the Titans in steering them around the park as well as having a composed kicking and passing game. If Gold Coast want to win this clash, Taylor needs to step up and take on the line to keep the defense guessing. Also look for his link up play with Chris McQueen and Konrad Hurrell out wide. If Taylor can replicate his form from the last game against the Knights (where he had four try assists) then lock in a Titans win.
Parramatta's forward pack has been superb in the first two rounds and it will again be a area of focus this Friday. Nathan Brown was one of its best last week against the Dragons and has enjoyed his offseason move from South Sydney. Blessed with power, strength and a great ability to wriggle free from tackles and off load, Brown is a dynamic player at prop. Despite playing just 54 minutes last week Brown was still able to register 17 hit ups, 142 metres, 1 tackle bust and 2 offloads. Look for him to bust up the middle of the field, coming on when the defense is getting fatigued at the back end of the first half.
My tip: Hard to see Parramatta losing this clash as long as they play to their potential. I'm expecting an improved Titans side from last week but they will need a special effort and to perform for 80 minutes if they want to upset the Eels in Friday night football. Eels by 10+.
1. Tyler Cornish 2. Tyrone Roberts-Davis 12. Chris McQueen 4. Konrad Hurrell 5. William Zillman 6. Kane Elgey 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Tyrone Roberts 10. Ryan James 11. Kevin Proctor 17. Joe Greenwood 13. Agnatius Paasi 14. Ryan Simpkins 15. Nathaniel Peteru 16. Leivaha Pulu 19. Max King
1. Bevan French 2. Semi Radradra 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Josh Hoffman 6. Clint Gutherson 7. Jeff Robson 8. Suaia Matagi 9. Kaysa Pritchard 10. Tim Mannah 11. Manu Ma'u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Beau Scott 14. Nathan Brown 15. Daniel Alvaro 16. Rory O'Brien 17. Frank Pritchard