NRL Round 23: Eels v Bulldogs Preview & Betting Tips
Round 23 kicks off with a fascinating battle of the west with the in-form Dogs looking for another upset against the Eels.
Parramatta Eels v Canterbury Bulldogs – Bankwest Stadium – 7:50pm
Parramatta continued their impressive campaign by comfortably dispatching Gold Coast 36-12 to give their chances of a top-four spot a boost. It’s a remarkable turnaround from last year’s wooden spoon but with Souths in freefall, suddenly fourth spot is up for grabs and only points difference is keeping the Eels out of fourth position.
Should the Eels win their next two games then when they face the currently fourth Manly in the final round, it could well be a showdown for who gets a crucial double chance. All of that though is reliant on the Eels not slipping up beforehand and in their easy Titans win they showed they’re not taking any backwards steps. Manu Ma’u is in inspired form as his NRL career is edging closer to the end, the Kiwi enforcer having one of his best games of his Eels career with a try, 157 run metres and two try assists last start.
Nathan Brown has a string of games under his belt following lengthy injury layoffs and the lock is now back to his bustling best, meaning suddenly key Eels forwards are peaking at a perfect time of year. Mitchell Moses has also improved his consistency, with there being no coincidence between Moses’ reliability and that of his side. At worst Parra will finish the season in sixth with a home final but should they overcome their bitter rivals Thursday their hopes of a top-four finish will only strengthen.
Canterbury continued their resurgence in claiming their biggest scalp this year, a brave 14-6 defeat of Souths their fifth win in seven weeks. Two months ago you’d have written your own odds for the Dogs to keep the Bunnies tryless but despite the desperate Bunnies throwing everything, the Dogs only conceded three penalty goals to shut out the Rabbitohs.
Canterbury can’t blow away teams with free-flowing attack but they have enough grit to create pressure and the return of Kieran Foran showed why he’s such a vital part of the Dogs’ attack. Foran is by far the most experienced playmaker on the Dogs’ books and the veteran’s ability to link with powerhouse forward Corey Harawira-Naera resulted in a double and allowed Lachlan Lewis to play a more kicking-oriented role instead of needing to steer the ship.
Dylan Napa had a reputation at his old club the Roosters for saving his best for the Bunnies and the big Queenslander carried on that trait in his new jersey with a barnstorming performance to get the better of rival Sam Burgess. Such is Canterbury’s revival they’re now one of only three sides (along with the Roosters and Eels) to have won their last three starts and they’re now closer to eighth spot than the wooden spoon they were once heavily backed for. Canterbury is an effort side maximising every bit of available talent and for as long as the Dogs are displaying the guts shown in the last two months, they’re a chance at upstaging anyone. A win over the despised Eels will only endear the improving Dogs further to their punters.
• The Eels have won 6 of their last 7 head-to-heads with the Dogs, including an emphatic 36-16 win in round 2.
• Parramatta has also won their last 3 first halves.
• They also have won their last 5 games at Bankwest Stadium with an average margin of 12 points.
Best bet: Eels first half - $1.62* (Unibet)
Value bet: Eels 1-12 - $3.00* (Sportsbet)