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Slippery Eels to Keep It Tight vs Panthers

Penrith Looks to Rebound From Stunning Defeat

The Penrith Panthers and Parramatta Eels battle for one last time on Saturday for a spot in the qualifying final.

Penrith produced its worst performance of the season when losing to the South Sydney Rabbitohs last week. It was a shocking drop in form for a team that looked dead set on getting back to the Grand Final.

Penrith Panthers vs Parramatta Eels

Parramatta survived against Newcastle thanks to a late penalty try. The Eels have been running on fumes over the last few weeks, so do they have enough to beat the Panthers?

Betting online markets have the Panthers as -12½-point favorites, so they’re expected to progress.

Are Eels Legit?

Bettors have had a hard time knowing which Parramatta Eels outfit will turn up week to week. They started the season on fire before going through a lengthy poor patch. However, their form has improved lately.

Parramatta comes off a 28-20 win over the Newcastle Knights. It wasn’t a convincing win and the Knights looked likely to make a late comeback, but the Eels secured the victory with a penalty try in the final three minutes.

We took positives out of the way, including the stellar running play of half Mitchell Moses. He split the Knights open just before halftime, which then set up another try late in the first half. Moses was on point and he’ll need to be again against the quality halves of the Panthers.

Switching halves Dylan Brown and Moses has seemingly worked the trick. They are playing better football and captain Clint Gutherson had a simple reason for the switch.

“It’s just about getting their hands on the ball and playing a bit more footy together,” Gutherson told Fox Sports. “It doesn’t really change the way they both play. They both swing in and get their hands on the ball.

“And that’s what we need from our halves, we need their hands on the ball and making the decisions and putting us in the right spot.”

Moses and Brown will need to be on form against the Panthers. The Eels are +12½-point underdogs in NRL betting markets, so they’re up against it from the outset.

Panthers Searching for Answers

We expected the Penrith Panthers to roll through the Rabbitohs last week, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The Panthers never turned up to the races as the Rabbitohs won 16-10. It was a particularly poor performance from the likes of Nathan Cleary, Brian To’o, and other senior players on the Panthers team.

We’re not sure why their form took such a sudden dip, but there is no time for excuses as the Panthers must win to advance. They made a case for being the best team in the NRL prior to the loss, but scoring only 10 points isn’t going to get it done.

Sydney’s defense isn’t as sharp as the Rabbitohs, so the Panthers should have an easier time. Our only concern is their confidence level, which must have taken a serious hit last weekend.

It was only the Panthers’ fourth loss of the season, so they’re not used to bouncing back from defeat. However, they are 2-0 against the Parramatta Eels.

They scored a tight 13-12 in the first meeting before winning 40-6 in Round 25, but that was when the Eels had most of their top players sitting on the sidelines.

It suggests Saturday’s playoff game will be close, but bookmakers have 12½ points as the difference. It’s a sizable margin for a finals game but Penrith’s reputation, as opposed to form, is the main difference.

Penrith Panthers vs Parramatta Eels Pick

We expect the Penrith Panthers to win the game, but we don’t think they’ll cover the spread.

The 12½ points are too much of a head start and the Eels are good enough to keep it to within a two-try margin.

Most of the money has come for the Eels, with the +12½ line sitting at -140, but because it’s such an important number, we suggest taking what’s available now.

Pick: Parramatta Eels +12½ (-140)

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