Round 2: Eels v Storm preview
The electric Eels host the superb Storm in a blockbuster Thursday night clash at Bankwest Stadium.
Parramatta will be determined to start this clash on the right note after falling behind by 16 points at the half to the Brisbane Broncos on Friday night. This is something they can't afford to do against a very strong Melbourne side who showcased their intentions this season by scoring four tries in the opening 30 minutes against premiership contenders the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
A strong second half performance by the Eels was much more pleasing for Brad Arthur to witness as his side secured the two points at Suncorp Stadium in a battle of attrition with Junior Paulo crossing in the 78th minute to put the result out of reach of Brisbane's hands.
The Eels will have a much tougher task this Thursday against the defending premiers, who blew the Rabbitohs off the park during the opening half of football. A tactic that the Storm are likely to repeat at Bankwest Stadium.
The Eel's middle forwards will be crucial in the arm wrestle for territory and will be expected to repeat their performances from Friday night, which saw Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Junior Paulo and Nathan Brown run for over 100 metres whist all making over 20 tackles. Fellow middle forward, Isaiah Papali'i proved to be a handful in his club debut against Brisbane, racking up 200 run metres from just 18 carries as he terrorised the tiring Broncos' forward pack.
Parramatta have made one change to their side from round one, with back-rower Marata Niukore returning from suspension as he replaces Keegan Hipgrave on the bench. On the other hand, Craig Bellamy has named an unchanged line-up for Thursday night's fixture after he recorded his 17th straight round one victory.
The Storm will be confident heading into this clash after knocking off the Eels in the Qualifying Finals during their 2020 Premiership season. Melbourne picked up where they left off as they blitzed the Rabbitohs off the park during the opening half, just as they did to Penrith in last year's Grand Final.
Bellamy will be expecting a similar performance and more on Thursday night after highlighting that his team have many improvements to make after their eight-point victory over the Rabbitohs. One of these improvements may be to try and apply pressure to the opposition by scoring throughout the whole game rather than in small periods of time, just as the Roosters did to Manly on Saturday afternoon.
Star five-eighth Cameron Munster is the man who could provide that creativity all game as he showcased his talents once again on Thursday night as he toyed with the Rabbitohs during the first half and will be looking to do the same to the Eels' halves pairing of Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown as he once again looks to assert himself as one of the best players in the competition.
Who to watch: The battle of the number one's will be an intriguing battle as both Clinton Gutherson and Ryan Papenhuyzen are vying for a spot in the New South Wales Origin squad as James Tedesco's understudy. Gutherson put in a typical ‘workmanlike' performance on Friday as he ran for 193 run metres, scored a try and provided a try as he helped his side to a victory over the Brisbane Broncos. Gutherson was everywhere. His try was pivotal in the result as it was the Eel's second try during their three try stretch in just 11 minutes during the first 20 minutes of the second half. His opposite number, Papenhuyzen, had a blistering round one performance as he ran for 175 run metres, provided a try, scored two himself and kicked five from six in his first game as the number one goalkicker in the Storm squad. Papenhuyzen was always in the right place at the right time during their victory over the Rabbitohs' and he will prove to be a nuisance for Parramatta's forwards as he lurks around the ruck.
The favourite: The defending premiers enter this Round two clash as favourites after blowing the Rabbitohs off the park early at AAMI Park last Thursday night. They will be expecting to deal with the Eels just as they did during the 2020 Finals series. They possess some of the great starts of the game in Munster and Papenhuyzen and enough experience in the forwards to be a consistent team every time they walk onto the field.
My tip: Likewise, to South Sydney, Parramatta are likely to match it with Melbourne for periods of the match but after their slow start against Brisbane and Melbourne's blistering start against the Rabbitohs it's the Storm's game to lose. The defending premiers will once again show why they are the one of the favourites to win the competition. Melbourne by 12.