The Parramatta Eels and the Manly Sea Eagles have a historic rivalry. Both teams joined the NSWRL (New South Wales Rugby League) in 1947, and have played 156 times since then. The Sea Eagles lead the victory count with 93 wins over the Eels. This Saturday, Parramatta and Manly face off once again, with a top-four spot up for grabs.
Manly started the season with four consecutive losses and were touted as surprise wooden spoon contenders. Since then, with returning superstars, notably Tom Trbojevic, they have won 12 of 16. The attacking style of play under the leadership of halfback Daly Cherry-Evans has been scintillating and unmissable. Despite losing to reigning premiers Melbourne last week, Manly kept up with the record-breaking Storm side until late on. Scoring three tries against such a resolute defence showed that they can hurt even the best sides.
The Eels currently hold fourth position on the ladder. They won 9 of their first 10 games in 2021, but have won just four of the last 10. Their last three games have all been losses, scoring just 22 points and conceding 80. In the previous game, against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, they were easily second best and lost by 28 points. The quality of fullback Latrell Mitchell caused havoc on the left edge of the Eels defence. This is something the Sea Eagles will look to replicate in Round 21.
Head to Head
Fullbacks Face Off
The abundance of world-class fullbacks in the NRL is a joy to watch. On Saturday, two of the league’s finest go head to head; Clint “King Gutho” Gutherson and Tom “Turbo” Trbojevic. Since returning from another frustrating injury lay-off in Round 6, Tommy Turbo has set the competition alight. He has scored 18 tries and assisted 21 tries in just 12 games. These statistics and his general impact on the pitch have him as the favourite for the Dally M medal.
Gutherson has also had another stand out season. With consistency in all 20 games in 2021, King Gutho has 12 tries and 16 try assists. Recent contract talk has put his future in the spotlight and there have been doubts as to whether this affects on-field performances. His recent form has mirrored his side’s, and he is without a try in six games. Conversely, in the same period of time Trbojevic has crossed the try line on 10 occasions. Defensively, Gutherson has only missed 16 tackles all season and will have to be at his best to stop Manly. He may be stretched at times with both edges of the Sea Eagles’ attack proving lethal. Speedster Jason Saab on the right, and Reuben Garrick on the left. Garrick’s partnership with Trbojevic has blossomed in 2021; he is the top points scorer and fifth top try scorer.
In their last meeting, the Sea Eagles welcomed back Tom Trbojevic and came out on top 28-6. The form of both the teams themselves and their star men have Manly as favourites. Should this happen, it would see the Northern Beaches outfit leapfrog Parramatta and go into fourth. With just three games remaining after this one, there is no room for error. The Eels also have a much harder run home, with matches against Penrith and Melbourne still to come. Worryingly for Eels fans, Parramatta have lost six of seven games against teams in the top eight. If they can pull off a victory on the Sunshine Coast, a four-point gap would open and the Eels would have one foot inside the top four. However, as Parramatta and Manly face-off, all signs point towards a comprehensive Sea Eagles victory.
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