4:00 PM (AEST) Sunday, June 17 at ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Round 15 of the NRL comes to a close on Sunday afternoon when the Parramatta Eels play hosts to the Dragons where a win will help both sides finals aspirations.
Parramatta: Bevan French; Semi Radradra, Brad Takairangi, Clinton Gutherson, Kirisome Auva’a; Corey Norman, Mitchell Moses; Daniel Alvaro, Kaysa Pritchard, Tim Mannah, Manu Ma’u, Kenny Edwards, Nathan Brown. Suaia Matagi, Will Smith, Siosaia Vave, Beau Scott.
St.George-Illawarra: Jason Nightingale; Nene Macdonald, Kurt Mann, Timoteo Lafai, Kalifa Faifai Loa; Gareth Widdop, Josh McCrone; Russell Packer, Cameron McInnes, Paul Vaughan, Tariq Sims, Joel Thompson, Jack de Belin. Jacob Host, Leeson Ah Mau, Hame Sele, Taane Milne.
32 games have been played between these two sides with the Dragons winning 16, while the Eels have `14 wins with 2 further games drawn. The Eels though have won the last 5 straight games, with the most recent coming in Round 2 this year when the Eels won 34-16.
Parramatta started the year in brilliant form. They beat Manly 20-12 in the opening Round before handing the Dragons a 34-16 loss the following week. Then it all fell apart. A 26-14 loss to an injury riddled Titans was compounded by a 20-6 loss to the defending premiers Cronulla. In Round 5 the Raiders put the Eels away in the second half to win 30-18 before their losing streak extended to 4 when they lost 22-10 against the Warriors, who also ran away with the game in the second half. In Round 7 they managed to reel in the Tigers to win 26-22 before beating the Panthers 18-12. They then beat a Thurston-less Cowboys 26-6 before they were demolished by the Roosters 48-10. They struggled against a poor Canberra side, and lost 22-16 before beating Souths in an uninspiring contest 22-16. Parramatta managed to hold out the Warriors 32-24 before getting steamrolled by the Cowboys last weekend 32-6.
The Dragons stunned everyone by putting 42 points on the board in a stunning Round 1 display against one of the premiership favourites, Penrith. However they were unable to capitalise on the performance, going down 34-16 to Parramatta the following week. They haven’t been beaten since and are top of the table after wins over defending premiers and neighbouring rivals Cronulla 16-10, the Warriors 26-12, a disinterested Wests Tigers side 28-6 and most impressively, a 35-10 win over the equally in-form Manly side. They held out a fast finishing Cowboys by 6 before going down in gold point to the Roosters. They then lost again in Round 9 to the Storm 34-22 largely due to the loss of their in-form half and captain Gareth Widdop to injury. They lost the return local derby with the Sharks 18-14 before producing a second half rally to beat the Warriors 30-14. Widdop returned and lead the Dragons to a scrappy 16-12 win over the lowly Tigers, but he was unable to inspire his side last week as they went down 16-2 against a dour Dogs side.
Norman v Widdop – Both five-eighths started the season in great form before succumbing to injuries. Both have only recently returned and have been hot and cold. Both sides fortunes tend to rely on the form of these men.
The Eels will start this game as favourites due to the Dragons being without two Origin players, however their defence is still leaking too many points. This will be tight.