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R5 Preview: Eels vs Raiders

This week sees the two over-achievers of the competition thus far - the Eels and Raiders go head-to-head in a battle that will mark one of them as serious contenders.

There are plenty of parallels between the two teams. Last year, both teams under-performed but both also had plenty of opportunities to come up with the two points before ultimately dropping their lollies.

I think where both teams have strengthened, and to my mind it is the most under-rated area of the current game is in their second row strength.

Your edge forwards are critical because they're the guys who hold defences up. If you're carrying powder-puff second rowers, teams just slide and your outside backs end up with little space to work in.

The Raiders made a supremely successful pillage on the Super League and their UK pairing of John Bateman and Elliott Whitehead have been fantastic, while this week they also welcome back Joseph Tapine. Meanwhile, for the Eels Sean Lane and Marata Niukore, to my mind, have been the side's unsung heroes. Interestingly, all four have been used as eighty minute players for most of the season.

For the Eels, that has resulted in the unusual situation where Parramatta had five middle forwards playing for 33 minutes of less, last week. One might surmise that is a response to the rash of head injuries that regularly saw his front-row stocks depleted last year, while it also gives the Eels the opportunity to ease young forward Oregon Kaufusi into the game.

Both sides also boast relatively unheralded halves combinations who have been getting the job done. Their halves are both former boom youngsters who have struggled to fulfill their potential. Sam Williams looks something like the player he looked like he was going to be, when he took the Under 20 competition by storm,while Mitchell Moses is showing that he can be a dominant half-back. Jack Wighton and Jaeman Salmon play the role of unlikely supporting halves, and have both performed well there.

Each side has a couple of experienced centres and powerful wingers, so you look through the two sides and for the most part, they line-up pretty evenly.

With maybe two exceptions. For the Eels, Junior Paulo has been immense and for mine, he is looking like the buy of the season right now. With a much improved kick return, and then Paulo performing a one-man wrecking ball through the middle, the Eels finally have the go-forward that was missing last year. 

Indeed, it's somewhat ironic that the Eel's edge lies in their size. Last year, it was the Raiders who had the big-boppers while Parra carried a mobile, aggressive pack. This year, that's pretty much reversed. If Paulo can get the Eels going early in the set, and put the Raiders on their heels so as they're unable to negate Parra's size difference with their line speed, the Eels should have a distinct advantage.

For the Raiders, Josh Hodgson is their maestro and brings a level of guile that few hookers, outside of Cameron Smith, get anywhere close to matching. Parramatta need to concentrate on slowing down the ruck as much as possible to limit Hodgson's threat. At the same time, they will need to keep in mind they are playing at Canberra in front of a parochial home crowd with Henry Perenara officiating. That's a recipe for a penalty blow-out, so the Eels will need to find the balance between winning the ruck without giving away penalties. For mine, that really basic part of the game, is where this match will be won and lost.


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  • Yep agree about penalties. The Raiders are averaging 54% possession. We need to get 50% to have a good chance.

    Alvaro is much better being on the field for just 30 min. Previous years he looked like he was running a marathon - paced himself and did not gain many metres, which was a lot of average runs and easy picking for the opposition defence. 

    • I suspect it won't happem but I would love to see Ray Stone in the 17, one as a fall back for Mahoney and two as a preference over Evans, I don't think we need his body shape against this side where they will have more lateral movement. Ray Stone plugs that weakness IMO.

  •  The Eels over- achieving!! Do you mean that it is not down to the genius coaching of Mr. B Arthur?  Well, well. I know who will be angry with you! I saw Perenara referring last week in a reserve grade match.  North Sydney won against Canterbury 40 odd to nil! The more things change the more they stay the same. Is it still true that the Eels have never won a match with Perenara referring? Why do I pay my yearly fees to watch such deplorable behavior? Jason Taylor was the coach of North Sydney. It was a different Jason Taylor though. He was not scowling but, indeed, smiling for the cameras. He might be a good choice to replace you know who but only on condition that he brings with him the new Jason Taylor and that he does not take on his forwards in a drunken brawl in a pub and comes off not second best but does not come off tenth best! A real big ask!

  • I honestly believe that Henry Peranara is close to being the worst referee that has ever graced the field. His decisions usually completely baffle even the the most pragmatic observer.  He will be completely swept up in the occasion and will favour the home side immensely. The Eels are completely up against it- and will suffer a massive penalty count against them. 

    This is really the game of the round so one wonders why the NRL gave it to such an inept show off- no doubt there has been some behind the scenes lobbying. 

    If the Eels go close or in some way beat the Raiders in Canberra under Peranara or GOAT as he likes to refer to himself- they are truly the real deal this year. 

    • Agreed FH, if it is the match of the round, how come a ref coming from Reserve Grade gets it.

      Frankie can you arganise a trip to Griffith before he goes to Canberra?

    • I think Barry Gomersall and Greg Hartley might have him covered.

      • Actually I meant in the NRL era.  I cannot believe Peranara and Patten could even get their tickets- it must really frustrate the other referees including the girls who still can’t get a run. At least Patten is confined to the bunker these days (where he still reeks havoc) 

  • I’m actually quite nervous about this one. 

    • Agree fellas this one we need to WIN to prove were top 4 contenders, take a page out of Storm coaching book.

      Yes win the ruck, also stop the 2nd phase, against the Sharks we had 3 in the tackle and they were still off loading.As much as there in a hurry to play the ball we need to be off the ground and in the defence line as quick.

      When i say Storm, there kicking game helped them win the ruck and then the game, 3/4 times kicking downfield on the 1st or 2nd tackle, and then keeping Cows in there 30. You could see the Cows slowin up no more quick play the balls, no big charges, and then staggered defence.


  • Poor old Henry Perineum - one suspects Sunday's gig might stretch him....

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