NRL Round 11: Eels v Panthers Preview & Betting Tips

Could the Battle of the West be the chance for Parramatta to get on track against the official rock bottom Panthers?

James Baxter
 | 
Wed, 22 May, 12:00 AM

Parramatta Eels v Penrith Panthers  – Bankwest Stadium 7:50pm

Parramatta’s away woes continued with their 17-10 loss to North Queensland their latest defeat away from the shiny new Bankwest Stadium. Unlike their belting from Melbourne in Brisbane, this time the Eels were competitive to the point they held the lead inside the game’s final 20 minutes. A rejigged halves pairing of Will Smith and Mitch Moses had some teething pains but they created enough pressure to deliver tries to Brad Takairangi and Josh Hoffman while reinstated hooker Reed Mahoney tackled himself into the Townsville turf with 65 tackles on the night.

Slightly worrying however was the Eels again fading away in a game’s deciding minutes with the Cowboys running in two late tries to seal their comeback win. In the same week as coach Brad Arthur and captain Clint Gutherson finally ended speculation over their futures by signing new deals, the Eels can no longer claim off-field instability as a distraction. Junior Paulo and Manu Ma’u provided strong running games and at least delivered a response after the.

Ferguson started the campaign on fire to the point where a once-unlikely NSW Origin selection – based upon off-field areas more than his elite talent – seemed a certainty but the big man has tailed off in the last fortnight and needs a strong performance to keep Nick Cotric at bay. The good news is Parramatta return to their home where they’ve been unbeatable in their two most impressive season performances, the bad news, however, is a loss here might prove a significant confidence blow for a side seemingly in a mental rut of late.

2019 wasn’t meant to be this way for Penrith. Their promising roster had tastes of finals and representative footy in 2018 and with former coach Ivan Cleary expensively targeted to return and mentor his son and star halfback Nathan, Penrith would have been eyeing off a top-four finish and a genuine run at a Premiership. Instead after ten rounds, the NRL ladder says the Panthers are the worst club in the competition.

Their 30-10 loss at home to the Warriors condemned Penrith to bottom spot and wasn’t exactly an inspiring recovery from what felt like the club’s rock bottom 30-4 thrashing by the Tigers the previous week. Coach Cleary delivered on his threat to ring in the selection changes by notably dropping rep players Josh Mansour and Reagan Campbell-Gillard but it made no difference. Penrith are playing like a broken footy side – there’s no confidence being shown and they’re in a vicious cycle where they’re having to play catch-up footy chasing early deficits weekly, meaning they’re shifting away from what would be their strongest attacking strategy of building off Nathan Cleary methodically dissecting defensive lines both with ball in hand and on boot with James Maloney providing the finishing touches on the edges.

It’s incredible to think the NSW incumbent halves have gone from seemingly selection certainties to now little chance of collectively retaining their Blues spots in just ten rounds. Dylan Edwards was reinstated at fullback and instead made three crucial handling errors. James Tamou has been the Panthers’ best but has continually lacked support from his fellow forwards – coach Cleary resorted to starting Tim Grant as his prop partner with the veteran not featuring often in 2019 but again the change didn’t work. Maloney will miss the derby through suspension which could be a blessing in disguise for both Cleary’s.

It allows coach Ivan to experiment to kickstart a clearly misfiring attack while halfback Nathan will now be the unquestioned chief playmaker and desperately needs a positive showing to keep his faint Origin hopes alive. We spoke previously on how a showdown with rivals the Tigers could be the setting to get Penrith back into form and the Panthers responded in leaking five tries in seventeen minutes. The Eels have lost two straight and if ever Penrith are to step up at long last in 2019, it must be against their local rivals.

Key stats: These sides met in round one with the Eels winning 20-12. Eels winger Maika Sivo has five tries in his last four starts. In two Bankwest matches the Eels have won by a combined score of 83-24, comfortably winning the second half both times.

Tip: Eels

Best bet: Maika Sivo anytime tryscorer - $2*

Value bet: Eels 9+ second half margin - $3.40*

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