Parramatta Eels v Manly Sea Eagles @ Parramatta Stadium
Manly travel to old rivals Parramatta on Friday Night in search of a 5th straight win as they look to keep their faint finals hopes alive. The Eagles have come alive late in the season and will look to add to Parramatta's misery by inflicting a 4th straight defeat on the slumping Eels. Both sides always like to mix it up when their paths cross and i expect this contest to be no different. Earlier in the season they played out a fierce contest at Brookvale with the then Keiron Foran inspired Eels prevailing 22-10.
Manly came into the season with lofty expectations on the back of some high profile new recruits under new coach Trent Barrett. However the side took time to gel and it's only a couple of mid season positional changes that have helped ignite their campaign. Veteran Jaime Lyon has shown he is a pure footballer with his seamless transition back into the five-eight role. His calmness under pressure, ability to ball play and smart kicking game has taken the pressure off Daly Cherry-Evans. Dylan Walker is now far more at home in the centre position where he can concentrate on his running game. To go with young superstar Tom Trabojevic moving to fullback the Eagles are suddenly a far different side. Brett Stewart was struggling with poor form and injuries and his absence has allowed Manly to blossom at the back end of the season. Now that might sound harsh, Stewart has been a great player however he is well and truly in the twilight. Stewart remains under contract for next year however may look to England to finish a stellar career.
The Eels season from hell took another turn for the worst mid-week as former club pin up boy Jarrad Hayne flew the coup to the Gold Coast Titans. However the return of Michael Jennings, Beau Scott and Manu Ma'u will provide much needed aggression and strike to a Parramatta side down on troops and incentive. The Eels much heralded defensive wall has started to puncture of late and they will be looking to sure things up in front of their home fans against their old foes Manly.
Verdict - This game always has plenty of feeling. I think in a bit of an upset here Parramatta can stick it to Manly in the forwards. I smell a bit of an early ambush with Scott and Ma'u returning to the side. Manly certainly have more to play for so expect this game to go right down to the wire. Parramatta by 2.