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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Bulldogs and Eels gear up for another chapter in their historic rivalry.
The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs need to mentally reset their minds for the season at hand after a major 40-6 loss to the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland last week.
Meanwhile the Parramatta Eels are riding high after their 20-12 upset on the Penrith Panthers at Panthers Stadium, which marked their first away win since August 2017.
Much like a team being tasked with playing the Melbourne Storm in Melbourne for round one, playing the Warriors in New Zealand to start the season is also a struggle. Canterbury did well to complete 88 per cent of their sets, concede just a few penalties and only commit five errors. It seemed they played too cautiously, were giving up too many run metres and field position.
Winger Christian Crichton scored the only Bulldogs try last week, which was his first on club debut. Aiden Tolman was the pick of their forwards as the ever reliable big man made 36 of 37 tackles and 158 metres in 52 minutes.
Parramatta had four new players run out in the blue and gold jersey for round one (Blake Ferguson, Shaun Lane, Dylan Brown and Maika Sivo) and all enjoyed strong performances. Ferguson and Lane were outstanding, each picking up two and one Dally M points respectively. Mitchell Moses won man of the match in his main role of directing the team's play, but the Eels unfortunately lost Nathan Brown early to injury which has him stuck on the sidelines until round 14.
Don't expect the round one performance of both the Eels and the Bulldogs to be an accurate preview of what the rest of the season holds.
As mentioned earlier Canterbury had to go and play in abnormally difficult circumstances. Parramatta showed effort, fitness and a toughness against the Panthers that was missing last season but their days of struggling won't be behind them. They have a young, but promising, spine combination of Clint Gutherson, Reed Mahoney, Dylan Brown and Moses. The Panthers were vulnerable last week, committed lots of unforced errors, missed Viliame Kikau and Sione Katoa.
Bulldogs coach Dean Pay has elected to persist with the same 17 players that played round one.
Junior Paulo is named to make his Eels return on Sunday and Parramatta's signing of rake Matt Mcllwrick happened after team lists were distributed on Tuesday, which means he's not eligible to play for the Eels until round three. With Will Smith (broken arm) dropping off the bench this week and replaced by Jaeman Salmon, it appears Reed Mahoney will be required to play 80 minutes as he's the only other fit dummy-half on the roster. Michael Jennings (suspension) is out and George Jennings if healthy is a possibility to replace Sivo on the wing.
Last meeting: Round 19 2018 - Eels 14 Bulldogs 8
Both teams were in a fight to avoid the wooden spoon. Nathan Brown was the difference maker in the middle and most of the public opinion thought the Bulldogs would finish with the wooden spoon.
Who to watch: Kieran Foran's match last week against the Warriors was his first NRL game since round 12 last season to rehab from a toe injury. The tragic events in New Zealand last week and the outpouring of emotion there must have made that match rather difficult to play through. Foran's been around the NRL for a long time, but he's only 28 years old. The questions around him are always if he can get his body and mind right to play his best. Once again this season he faces the most pressure of any Bulldogs playmakers to be a match winner. This game against Parramatta should help viewers decide what Foran could be capable of this season.
Mitchell Moses took it upon himself to be the dominant voice and team leader set-to-set against the Panthers in round one, but keep an eye on his new fellow half and rookie Dylan Brown. His work ethic in pre-season training won the respect of the squad and coaching staff, he's known to be composed on the field (and showed nothing but composure in his first 80 minutes of NRL), his kicking game is arguably already better than Moses' and he's naturally gifted to be a half. Against the Panthers he was strong in defence making 27 of 28 tackles and Brown has the speed to chase down Bevan French (which he did in pre-season) training. Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler were raving about what they saw from Brown during the Panthers v Eels match last Sunday.
The favourite: After that win against the Panthers on Sunday, Parramatta has become slight favourites in this match. The Eels have also won five of the last six matches against the Bulldogs. If Parramatta is to win this game, they will have started their season with two away wins after failing to win an away match all of last season.
My tip: The historic rivalry has usually proven to produce tight finishes and I expect Parramatta to win ugly. Eels by 4.
1. Will Hopoate 2. Christian Crichton 3. Kerrod Holland 4. Marcelo Montoya 5. Reimis Smith 6. Kieran Foran 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 14. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Adam Elliot 9. Michael Lichaa 15. Danny Fualalo 16. Corey Harawira-Naera 17. Sauaso Sue
1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Josh Hoffman 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Daniel Alvaro 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Marata Niukore 13. Tepai Moeroa 14. Jaeman Salmon 15. Tim Mannah 16. Kane Evans 17. David Gower
Referees: Ben Cummins, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski; Sideline Officials: Nick Beashel, Jeff Younis; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Bryan Norrie;