Parramatta v North Queensland preview

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Parramatta Eels v North Queensland Cowboys Saturday 7:35pm at Cbus Super Stadium

Parramatta Eels and North Queensland Cowboys might be at opposite ends of the table but clash in the second game of a Gold Coast double header on Saturday evening. 

Looking at this game before any analysis it will be one where defense will be optional between two sides who were well beaten last weekend. The Eels dropped out of the top four after being trashed by the Sea Eagles while the Cowboys were mauled by the Tigers. Maybe points and positive footy might bring us a fun contest. 

Since their 18-point win against Gold Coast Titans in mid July, to describe what the Parramatta Eels have fallen into as a slump is being generous. Being beaten by the Roosters, Souths and Sea Eagles isn't much to be ashamed of but losing to a Raiders side who have been inconsistent shows that maybe 2021 isn't the time it finally comes home. 

Eels coach Brad Arthur has chopped and changed his side more than Covid-19 restrictions across the east coast but can't find the formula to prevented them being locked down by their opponents. For this week, it is youth in revolt. Haze Dunster and Viliami Penisini join the backline while utility Marata Niukore goes into the second row. 
Lucky Arthur is bald otherwise he would be pulling his hair out with the performances from his side in recent weeks after a positive first half to the season had them secure in the top four. Maybe facing a side already on the beach might bring out the best in the Eels playmakers and give the long-suffering blue and gold fans something to cling on headed into the finals. 

If the Eels are in free fall, the Cowboys have crashed, burned and moved onto the enquiry about what just happened this season. Coach Todd Payten came into the job with plenty of bluster and confidence but now the Cowboys head into the game on the back of a nine-game losing streak and wedded to finishing in 14th spot. 

One of the major tensions this season has been the role of Jason Taumalolo - the Cowboys strike weapon in the forwards. He has seen his minutes reduced, thrown onto an edge and multiple injuries have blunted the work of the Tongan. He is named in the reserves this weekend but if the Cowboys are to find any success this year or next, Taumalolo needs to be central to that. 

Having Chad Townsend coming to Townsville next year means that Payten has to figure out who might partner him in the halves or how they will operate for the optimal performance. Tom Dearden will just be looking for a win. The former Broncos half hasn't tasted success in over a year and maybe Tom sorry you're not a winner. 

So it sets up an intriguing but ultimately inconsequential contest to round off Super Saturday. The Eels need to get back in the win column to shake off the last month but their performance in the semi-finals is the only factor which will dictate their plans for 2022. For the Cowboys, a win would be uplifting and help them head into the off-season on a high but won't paper over a turgid 2021 campaign.

Last meeting: Round 8 2020 - Eels 42 Cowboys 4

Who to watch: The Eels season is hanging on by a thread so they need their stars to stand up this weekend against a struggling side. That means Mitchell Moses who has been branded a "flat track bully" might spark back into form back in combination with Dylan Brown to grab back their top four spot. Another one who has slid under the radar in their dramatic form slip is destructive winger Maika Sivo. He was the baron of Bankwest but he was a turn style last weekend against the Eagles and needs a huge performance to avoid the fate which befell Blake Ferguson. 

Since his return from America, Valentine Holmes has been a disappointment for the Cowboys this season whether it was on the wing or at fullback currently. He has nailed a massive field goal against the Broncos but if the Cowboys are to salvage anything from these last three weeks, the representative star needs to be involved much more. 

The favourite: Parramatta's form hasn't scared away the bookies - nor should it with the Cowboys position and form.

My tip: Despite their form slump, the Eels should have enough to see of a Cowboys outfit that has packed up for the season. Parramatta by 12.

1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Waqa Blake 5. Haze Dunster 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Isaiah Papali'i 9. Joey Lussick 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Marata Niukore 13. Nathan Brown 14. Will Smith 15. Bryce Cartwright 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Makahesi Makatoa 18. Ray Stone

19. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 1. Valentine Holmes 3. Daejarn Asi 21. Laitia Moceidreke 5. Ben Hampton 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Tom Dearden 8. Francis Molo 9. Reece Robson 10. Jordan McLean 11. Ben Condon 12. Heilum Luki 16. Mitchell Dunn 4. Jake Granville 13. Coen Hess 14. Reuben Cotter 15. Jeremiah Nanai 22. Connelly Lemuelu

Referees: Ashley Klein; Sideline Officials: Drew Oultram, Jon Stone; Video Referees: Alan Shortall;

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