Canberra Raiders vs Parramatta Eels at GIO Stadium, Sunday 2pm.
Canberra try to consolidate top 4 effort
We travel down to the nations capital on Sunday afternoon as the Canberra Raiders look to consolidate their top 4 status against a tricky Parramatta side. On paper the Raiders should steam roll Parramatta and record yet another victory, however nothing is ever as it seems in the NRL and this is definitely a danger game for a Canberra side that has been on fire in recent weeks. After a rather solid campaign in 2016, Canberra has made the entire competition take notice over the last fortnight with impressive wins over the top 2 teams in Melbourne and Cronulla. Their expansive style of football and exciting young backline is garnering them plenty of fans as they push for a top 4 birth. Ricky Stuart has done a tremendous job and recruited very well. In particular Josh Hodgson and Eliot Whitehead both signed from the English Super League have been hugely impressive. With that said, this clash against Parramatta is a game the Canberra of old would have lost, can try Buck that old trend? If Canberra want to win the premiership they need consistency and for them that continues this week.
Parramatta were pretty good in the first 40 minutes against Brisbane last week but their lack of cutting edge hurt them and Brisbane were too strong in the end. A lot of credit had to go to the Eels for their never day die attitude in the face of adversity. Their current roster is struggling to compete with other teams but they are continuing to compete each week. This is a really good test for them this weekend and they would love to knock of the Raiders in Canberra. Look for the Parramatta forwards to give former prop Junior Paulo a nice welcoming committee on Sunday.
Last Meeting: Parramatta Eels 36 defeated Canberra Raiders 6 at Pirtek Stadium, Round 6, 2016.
It was certainly happier times earlier in the season for the Eels Who pummelled Canberra in round 6. However Canberra have won 5 of the past 7 clashes between these two teams including the last 4 at GIO Stadium.
Who to watch: Junior Paulo will want a huge game against his former side on Sunday. Canberra secured his services earlier this year due to the salary constraints on the Eels and he has been a constant performer for the Raiders. A big body in the middle of the field, Paulo has a great ability to create metres after contact and carry defenders with him. He is also very talented at landing on his knees when tackled which means he can get a quick play the ball and speeds up the ruck. Look for him to be doing that on Sunday as well as trying to get over the top of his former team mates with some strong carries.
There has been no shortage of injuries and suspensions this year for the Eels but one player that has been constant throughout has been Manu Ma’u. He has developed into a leader of the Parramatta pack this year with his no nonsense attitude and ability to break open the defensive line. He is also durable and mobile and has slotted into the centres in recent weeks without issue. His consistent play is evident by his average of 25 tackles and 120 metres a game.
The favourite: Canberra huge favourites in this match
My tip: even with Josh Hodgson out its almost impossible to go past the Raiders. They won’t be as potent without him and I think Parramatta will really test them through the middle of the field. This won’t be a blowout but still think Canberra will have too much for the valiant Eels outfit. Canberra by 7.