Eels v Sea Eagles preview

Embed from Getty Images
Parramatta Eels v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Friday 7:55pm at CommBank Stadium, Parramatta

Manly look to bounce back from horror loss against inconsistent Eels

Both sides were on the wrong end of the scoreboard at Magic Round in games they were expected to win, however it was the performance of the Sea Eagles that will have Des Hasler and company scrambling for answers after losing to the Broncos in a 38-point shutout.

It was more of the same for the Eels, who followed up an impressive win against a genuine contender with a lacklustre performance against a team in poorer form than them. Unlike Manly however, there were some encouraging signs for the Eels, who managed to turn a 25-6 second half deficit into a 25-24 scoreline, before the Roosters eventually pulled away to win by 7.

Still, Brad Arthur will not be pleased with Sunday's effort. He said in his press conference after the Panthers victory that his Eels were "not an elite team" due to not performing to their full potential each week. It was almost a direct challenge to his playing group to back up their performance against Penrith and they failed to do it.

If the Eels took one step backwards last week, the Sea Eagles took 40, 20 of them being of their own accord and the remaining 20 after being pushed back by a dominant Broncos outfit. It wasn't as if they were starved of opportunities or strangled out the affair either, Manly had multiple attacking trips but seemed to turn the ball over through stupid unforced errors every time. In the first half, Foran dropped the ball cold on their first visit to the Broncos line, while the second time saw DCE put in an unnecessary kick on the third tackle that the Broncos easily recovered.

On the rare occasions they did hold onto the ball, they offered little in attack, as the scoreline would suggest. Tom Trbojevic is either horrendously out of form or is still carrying some sort of injury, the latter being the more likely option, while Cherry-Evans looked a shadow of the player he was against the Tigers the round prior.

Manly's poor showing wasn't helped by the fact that they came up against the form player of the competition in Adam Reynolds, and it doesn't get any easier as they this week will face the red hot Mitch Moses, who was directly involved in three of the Eels four tries last week, including a scintillating tip-toe effort down the sideline. The kick defence of Garrick on the edge was woeful and needs to improve if Manly are to be any chance of stopping Moses' deft kicking game.

In team news, Ryan Matterson has been rewarded for consistent strong showings in the middle with the starting lock position, pushing Nathan Brown to the bench. Marata Niukore returns to the 17, pushing Bryce Cartwright to the reserves.

For the Sea Eagles, Tom Trbojevic has somewhat surprisingly been named at fullback again despite some apparent injury concerns. Morgan Harper has been recalled for the first time since being abused by Talakai a few weeks ago, with Ben Trbojevic making way. Ethan Bullemor has been dropped with Andrew Davey starting in his place and Schuster returning via the interchange.

Last meeting: Round 22 2021 - Sea Eagles 56 Eels 10

Who to watch: This Eels team is just so much fun to watch when they're in form that it's hard to pick just one, however someone who has been flying slightly under the radar in terms of plaudits for mine has been Ryan Matterson. After coming through the grades as a 5/8th and then switching to back-rower early in his first grade career and having success there, it was assumed that that was where he would continue to play. However, the Eels made the call to give him some minutes in the middle as a lock and it has so far been the most fruitful positional change of 2022. Last week, he came off the bench and in 55 minutes produced 1 line-break, 10 tackle breaks, 2 offloads, 17 runs for 172 metres and made 33 tackles at an efficiency rate of 94%, while also scoring a crucial try that got the Eels within 1. This was the week after he scored the try that gave the Eels the lead, which they never gave up,on the road against a team that hadn't lost at home for three years. He has this week, as was alluded to earlier, been rewarded with a spot in the starting lineup, and it will be interesting to see if/how he splits with Nathan Brown as well as if he can continue his strong run of performances.

The Sea Eagles were an absolute nightmare to watch last week that I wonder if any Manly fan was able to get through the entire 80 minutes without either walking out of the ground or turning off the TV. No player that was in the 17 last week has earned the right to be featured in this section of the preview, and for that reason I'm going to say Josh Schuster is the player to watch for Manly this week. He made his first appearance of 2022 against the Rabbitohs in the Karl Lawton send off game in Round 8 and the difference he made to Manly's attack was obvious. He draws a lot of attention from edge defences with his size and strength, while also having the skills of a five-eighth to throw a crisp pass to his left should his opposite man overcommit. This skillset is a good matchup for the Sea Eagles that Des Hasler should be planning to exploit; the Eels edge defence has been consistently one of the worst parts of their game, and Schuster's gravity is an asset that can be used to create more space out the back for out of form players such as Trbojevic.

Favourite: The Eels are 7.5 point favourites at the time of writing.

My tip: Manly have had the wood over Parramatta recently, sweeping them last year by a combined margin of 68 points, however you'd have to be a madman to think they can continue that streak considering their recent performance and health of key players. Eels by 16.

1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Hayze Perham 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Tom Opacic 5. Bailey Simonsson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali'i 15. Marata Niukore 13. Ryan Matterson 14. Makahesi Makatoa 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Nathan Brown 21. Bryce Cartwright

1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Christian Tuipulotu 3. Morgan Harper 4. Tolutau Koula 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Lachlan Croker 17. Toafofoa Sipley 11. Haumole Olakau'atu 12. Andrew Davey 13. Jake Trbojevic 10. Sean Keppie 14. Dylan Walker 15. Josh Schuster 16. Martin Taupau 18. Ethan Bullemor

Referees: Todd Smith; Sideline Officials: Drew Oultram, Nick Beashel; Video Referees: Ashley Klein;

Follow all the action LIVE in our Match Centre