Full Time
80:00
7:35pm Sat March 27, 2021
Round 3 - CommBank Stadium, Parramatta - Crowd: 19236

Round 3: Eels v Sharks preview

Giant killing Eels host luckless Sharks

Not satisfied with the biggest scalp in the competition, Eels coach Brad Arthur said his side must repeat the dose every week if it is to challenge for titles like the Melbourne Storm.

It's a big ask after only two rounds, and one that should stir the Sharks. With only a 45 per cent share of possession, not many sides would have got close to Melbourne last week, let alone pinch it from under their nose like Maika Sivo did.

In a weekend of contrasting fortunes, everything Clint Gutherson touched kept Melbourne at bay, while at Kogarah, a touch of luck off the tee would have seen Cronulla upset the Raiders. For the middle of the road Sharks, it was another case of letting the big boys off the hook.

Still burned by the stigma of sneaking into last season's finals without a top-8 scalp, John Morris knows his side isn't far away. The Sharks commitment in defence against the Raiders was undone by 18 handling errors, but with Sydney's big wet expected to ease, the best of Matt Moylan and the likes of William Kennedy might not be far away.

In team news, Parramatta's Marata Niukore retains his place at centre in the absence of the injured Waqa Blake, while hard running back-rower Isaiah Papali'i will start for Ryan Matterson who failed last week's HIA.

And set for his first appearance of the season, Ray Stone has been named on the bench.

For the Sharks, Connor Tracey has been chosen in place of centre Mawene Hiroti, while utility forward Teig Wilton will suit up in the No.14.

Cronulla has held the upper hand over the Eels winning six of the past eight, although Parramatta won last year's contents in what proved the wettest match of the season. In what will be their first clash at Bankwest Stadium, Cronulla fans have every right to feel confident given their side has defeated the confident Eels in two of the last four clashes.

Last meeting: Round 13 2020 - Sharks 12 Eels 14

Who to watch: Junior Paulo's thundering charges are hard to miss but from close range, the 123kg beast is proving even harder to stop. Opening the season with just 9 tries from 154 appearances, the wrecking-ball has fired out of the blocks scoring two from two - the first time he's troubled the scorers twice in a season since 2016.

Now running off the rapidly improving Reed Mahoney, the mere presence of Paulo alone is bound to have the Sharks' goal line defence sweating bullets.

Cronulla's answer to Paulo is Braden Hamlin-Uele. Although eight kilograms lighter than the Eels prop, the Sharks big man still bends the line and with six tries last season is just as dangerous from close range. Averaging 72m in the opening two rounds, the Kiwi's output is almost 30m down on the past two seasons. So in what promises to be a clash of the demolition men, look for Hamlin-Uele to raise the bar.

The favourite: On home turf, Parramatta are strongly favoured to extend their perfect start to three wins.

My tip: Parramatta are the obvious tip in this one, but the physical and mental toll of the Storm clash shouldn't be underestimated. Records show that following each of their past five matches with Melbourne, the Eels have backed up the next week with a loss.

That said, Cronulla's recent record against the better sides in the competition is poor and they'll need to improve their handling to stand a chance. In a high scoring affair, look for the home side to edge clear just before the final bell sounds. Parramatta by 4.