Parramatta Eels v Vodafone Warriors
ANZ Stadium, Sydney
7.50pm (9.50pm NZT), Friday, June 2
Both last-up winners in the NRL Telstra Premiership, the Eels and Vodafone Warriors meet for the second time in two months this week.
Parramatta sits just one spot outside the top eight after racing out to a commanding lead last week before surviving a late South Sydney comeback in a 22-16 win to halt a two-match losing streak.
The Vodafone Warriors also enjoyed their first win in three games last week, downing the Brisbane Broncos 28-10 in Auckland.
After missing round 12 with a rib injury, destructive lock Nathan Brown returns for Parramatta, which sees Will Smith drop out of the 17. Former Vodafone Warrior Suaia Matagi starts at prop with Siosaia Vave and Beau Scott reverting to the bench.
For the Vodafone Warriors, centre Solomone Kata returns at the expense of impressive rookie Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad with David Fusitu'a moving to the wing.
Why the Eels can win: The Vodafone Warriors haven't been able to win on the road at all so far in 2017, going down in all five of their road trips, while they score only 14.8 away points on average per game compared to 20.2 at home. Parramatta on the other hand has been solid at home this season, winning three out of five, with the two losses coming against current top-eight sides. Home ground carries a bit more weight for the Eels this week and it should give them some confidence ahead of running out on Friday night.
Why the Vodafone Warriors can win: The Vodafone Warriors' pack dominated last week, helping the team to 1849 total run metres, and the spine fired off the back of it. Shaun Johnson returned to his best for the 80 minutes, laying on a pair of tries along with scoring one himself, in a match where he clocked 75 NRL Fantasy points. Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had a try and 210 running metres, while hooker Issac Luke had arguably his best match of the season. If they can replicate that on Friday night it's unlikely they'll be beaten.
The history: Played 37, Eels 20, Vodafone Warriors 17. The Vodafone Warriors got up for a 22-10 victory in their meeting against the Eels back in April, while prior to that Parramatta had only one win in its four most recent games against the Kiwi club. This will be just the second time the Vodafone Warriors have played at ANZ Stadium since losing the grand final there in 2011.
What are the odds: The New Zealand TAB has the Vodafone Warriors $2.20 in the head-to-head odds with Parramatta at $1.62. In Australia, Sportsbet has taken 50 per cent more money on Parramatta in the head-to-head market, but punters are keener on Eels 1-12 rather than 13 plus. Semi Radradra is the most popular in the first try-scorer market. Latest odds at www.tab.co.nz
Parramatta Eels | Bevan French; Semi Radradra, Brad Takairangi, Kirisome Auva’a, Josh Hoffman; Clint Gutherson, Mitch Moses; Suaia Matagi, Kaysa Pritchard, Tim Mannah (c); Manu Ma’u, Tepai Moeroa; Nathan Brown. Interchange: Beau Scott (c), Daniel Alvaro, Kenny Edwards, Siosaia Vave, David Gower, Will Smith, Marata Niukore, Nathan Davis.
Vodafone Warriors | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck; David Fusitu’a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo; Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson; James Gavet, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino; Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman; Simon Mannering. Interchange: Nathaniel Roache, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, Bunty Afoa, Jacob Lillyman, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Toafofoa Sipley, Mafoa’aeata Hingano.
Match officials | Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant referee: Chris Sutton. Sideline officials: Nick Beashel and Kasey Badger. Review official: Bryan Norrie. Senior review official: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live coverage from 7.50pm (AEST). Sky SPORT 2 - Live coverage from 9.50pm (NZT).
NRL.com predicts: Both of these sides have powerful backlines full of skilful players, which should mean there's plenty of exciting footy played in this one. Parramatta probably has a slight edge on paper, and the fact that the game is being played at ANZ Stadium means we are leaning towards the Eels getting up for the win. Parramatta by six.