The Parramatta Eels come into this round 14 clash sitting in outright third position having won 11 games and lost two. They have won their last three in a row with triumphs over the Tigers, Bulldogs and Sharks. Meanwhile the Dragons sit in 12th with just four wins the season and have lost their last three to the Roosters, Rabbitohs and Sharks.
Dragons coach Mary McGregor will be in the box tonight although he was sacked yesterday so that could be an awkward dressing room.
Parramatta have been scrappy of late, their wins against Cronulla and Canterbury being physical affairs and the Sharks match played in outright appalling conditions at Kogarah last weekend.
The Eels have virtually their full squad available minus Peni Terepo, although it's hard to see where he'd fit in at the moment. They do welcome back second-rower Ryan Matterson after he spent the past two weeks recovering from a concussion suffered against the Tigers.
Parramatta are expected to be 1-17 tonight. They are going with virtually an all middle bench after rookie Andrew Davey dropped back to the reserves due to the return of Matterson.
St George meanwhile continue to shift the pieces around. Prop Paul Vaughan is sitting out the next two weeks after breaking the COVID bubble when he visited a cafe last week. Jackson Ford, Trent Merrin and Tariq Sims are all unavailable.
Cameron McInnes has once again been named at lock and million dollar halfback Ben Hunt is at hooker with Corey Norman and Adam Clune the halves.
The Eels and Dragons share one of the more storied rivalries in the NRL with their confrontations dating back to the mid 1970s as the Eels rose to become premiership heavyweights. The two sides famously played out the 1977 drawn grand final with the Dragons winning the replay. St George also defeated the Eels in the preliminary final in 1979.
Parramatta got one back on the Red V in 1980 by signing hooker Steven Edge who would go on to lead the Eels to four consecutive grand finals and three premierships from 1981-1984.
The rivalry was reanimated in the 2000s with a famously spiteful clash in 2005 at Parramatta Stadium when Trent Barrett took exception to a PJ Marsh charge down and punched the Eels hooker in the back of the head. They also played a retro round clash in the wet in 2007 with then youngsters Brett Morris and Jarryd Hayne going head to head in a match that saw the Eels taking the chocolates.
In 2009 the two sides met for the first time in a finals series since 1984 with the Eels defeating the minor premiers and marching onto the grand final.
In recent years the Eels have dominated this clash. Since 2013 Parramatta have won nine from 10 games with the solitary loss coming in 2018 after the Dragons ran down an early 0-18 deficit to win 20-18.
Since the introduction of the NRL and the creation of the St George-Illawarra Dragons, the two sides have clashed 37 times, with the Eels enjoying a 20-15 lead and two draws.
Dufty vs The King
Matt Dufty has been in a recent purple patch of form, playing dangerously as a third receiver and popping up all over the park to use his speed to terrorise defenders. He's in arguably career best form after being dropped earlier in the season.
Gutherson has been one of the best fullbacks in the competition this season with his high workrate seeing him rated alongside the likes of James Tedesco and Ryan Papenhuyzen. Gutherson has been instrumental in the Eels' recent wins and has virtually willed his side across the line on a number of occasions.
The Eels have also done a good job this year in subduing the opposition fullback. James Tedesco, Charnz Nickoll-Klokstad and Kalyn Ponga have all been relatively quiet against Parramatta with much of that down to the kicking game of half Mitchell Moses.
Lomax vs Old Man Jennings
Lomax came into the season as one of the hottest young prospects but has taken some time to find his feet. Much of that could be put down to him training all pre-season at fullback before McGregor in his infinite wisdom stuck him at centre. He has been a lot more dangerous recently, especially given time and space to use his speed and strength to get away from his opponent.
Meanwhile Michael Jennings is enjoying a form of renaissance in this late stage of his career. Although not quite as quick as he once was, he still possesses the acceleration and strength to leave his opponent grasping at thin air. Jennings' best attribute though has been his defence and Lomax will have to be on his game if he wants to create opportunities on the outside.
In the Blue and Gold corner, Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown, in the Red V Adam Clune and Corey Norman. We all know the Norman story, he can drift in and out of games, sometimes look like a genius, at other times he's booting the ball into the stands. Norman went missing in his matches against his former club last season and is the senior playmaker in this pairing with rookie Adam Clune. If the Eels pressure Norman he's likely to go into his shell and just run the ball ineffectively on tackle four.
Moses and Brown though have looked a little clunky since Moses' return from a calf injury however the Eels halfback has been one of the most dangerous players in the competition either side of his injury layoff. Brown has been a little up and down although was one of Parramatta's best against the Sharks, netting himself the opening try, running the ball well and being very solid defensively.
With rain predicted on Friday night it looks to be another wet and wild game. However, the Eels are back home at the state of the art Bankwest and not some swamp in Kogarah so the pools of water forming on the pitch should not be there.
Parramatta possess a superior forward pack and carry some serious size on the bench as well as sheer bloody mindedness in defence, as evidenced by the side defending a two point lead for 25 minutes against the Bulldogs and Sharks.
The Eels boast a starting forward pack weight of 555kg to the Dragons 516kg with a total, including the bench of 986kg to 834kg. The Dragons decision to play McInnes and Hunt in the middle as well as carry Tristan Sailor on the bench gives the Eels forwards extra small bodies to aim at.
If you were to highlight the one difference between 2019 and 2020 Eels, it's their defence with this side currently the best defensive team in the competition, six points better than perennial defensive powerhouse Melbourne.
The Dragons carry some firepower and have been involved in recent high scoring games however, thinking they can get into a try fest with the Eels would be a mistake.
Despite the rain I predict a comfortable Eels win by 16 points due to their superiority through the middle.