NRL TEAMS - 2021 Finals Week 3
3 days ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Long-standing foes clash in match of the round
Birthing a rivalry that began when both teams entered the New South Wales Rugby League back in 1947, the Parramatta Eels and the Manly Sea Eagles will renew hostilities once more on Sunday afternoon in a match that shapes as one of the best of the season so far.
Sitting in second position after their best start to a season in 44 years, the Parramatta Eels will be hoping to continue a strong run of form at Bankwest Stadium that has yielded 21 wins from 28 appearances.
Establishing a dominant lead in the opening quarter of Magic Round before weathering a comeback to win 34-18 against the Warriors last week, coach Brad Arthur will be looking to record six consecutive wins for only the second time in his coaching tenure.
Staring down the prospect of winning ten home-and-away matches prior to State of Origin for the first time since 1983, the Eels will have an added source of motivation with charismatic winger Blake Ferguson set to make his 50th appearance for the club on Sunday afternoon.
Keeping faith with the bulk of the squad that triumphed in Brisbane seven days earlier, Joey Lussick will make his club debut in place of Ray Stone off the bench. Lussick played one game for the Sea Eagles in 2017 before spending the past three years honing his craft with Salford in the English Super League.
Surging into the top eight after spending the first month of the premiership in last position, the Manly Sea Eagles will face their fiercest test against one of the heavyweights of the league.
Winning five of their past six matches against teams outside the top eight, the Sea Eagles will be out for redemption after falling well short against premiership front runners the Roosters (4-46), Rabbitohs (12-26) and Panthers (6-46) over the opening rounds before pushing the Panthers (16-28) in a narrow loss at the start of May.
Obliterating the Broncos 50-6 in an attacking tour de force last Friday, coach Des Hasler has named Cade Cust in place of Kieran Foran (broken hand) at five-eighth, with Indigenous All Stars' representative Zac Saddler filling the vacant bench position.
While his younger brother has garnered plenty of headlines since returning from injury, the focus will be on Jake Trbojevic as he plays his 150th game for the Sea Eagles after debuting for the club - incidentally alongside Eels captain Clint Gutherson - in 2013.
Recording an impressive victory over the Tigers at Bankwest Stadium on ANZAC Day, the Sea Eagles have yet to defeat the Eels at the Western Sydney rectangular venue.
Last meeting: Round 10 2020 - Sea Eagles 22 Eels 18
Who to watch: Regarded as one of the best front-rowers in the world at various points of his career, Reagan Campbell-Gillard will be looking to impress representative selectors ahead of the opening State of Origin match next month. Scoring his first try double in the NRL last week, the 27-year-old Rooty Hill junior has averaged 150 metres and just under 28 tackles each week this season to rank among the best props in the league. Included in Brad Fittler's extended squad last season without adding to his lone appearance for the Blues back in 2018, look for Campbell-Gillard to lead from the front on Sunday afternoon.
After beginning the year as arguably the weakest starting hooker in the league, Lachlan Croker has grown to complement the strengths of the Sea Eagles' attack. Coming to prominence as an interchange utility with a preference for playing five-eighth, the 24-year-old one-time Raider has defended stoutly with 36 tackles each week while gaining confidence to pick and choose his moments to run with the ball. Knowing his role as a supporting player to superstar Tom Trbojevic and captain Daly Cherry-Evans, Croker has been a valuable contributor in the side's resurgence over the past six weeks.
The favourite: With both teams winning three matches apiece since 2018, the Eels are expected to prove too strong for their rivals from the Northern Beaches.
My tip: Gaining confidence with a run of wins against teams outside the top eight, the Sea Eagles will rate their chances of claiming a major scalp on Sunday afternoon. Manly by 1.
1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Tom Opacic 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Jakob Arthur 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Isaiah Papali'i 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Nathan Brown 14. Oregon Kaufusi 15. Shaun Lane 16. Joey Lussick 17. Bryce Cartwright 20. Haze Dunster
1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jason Saab 3. Brad Parker 4. Morgan Harper 5. Reuben Garrick 12. Josh Schuster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Taniela Paseka 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Martin Taupau 11. Haumole Olakau'atu 16. Sean Keppie 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Moses Suli 15. Zac Saddler 17. Toafofoa Sipley 23. Karl Lawton 20. Christian Tuipulotu
Referees: Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: Chris Sutton, Chris Butler; Video Referees: Ashley Klein;