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Eels, Dragons tip big NRL forward battle

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/03/2017 Scott Bailey

Stopping St George Illawarra's rampant forward pack is the key to securing Parramatta's fifth-straight NRL victory over the Dragons, according to Eels coach Brad Arthur.

The Dragons haven't beaten Parramatta since early 2013, but look a revitalised side after last week's 42-10 win over early competition favourites Penrith.

The joint venture's forwards scored five of their seven tries, while their starting pack ran 728 metres - their most in 80 minutes of football since 2005, according to Fox Sports Stats.

And Arthur has identified that same middle passage of the field as where Sunday evening's battle will be won at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.

"Their strength is their size in their forward pack," Arthur said.

"They played very direct and carried the ball very aggressively.

"The battle through the middle is important to both teams."

If any side are poised to stop them, it should be the Eels after last week's defeat of Manly.

They gave up the least metres (1085) of any team in the opening round in their 20-12 triumph, while Tim Mannah racked up 178 metres.

They controlled the game from the outset, dominating the territorial battle and maintaining 62 per cent of possession - the highest of all teams last week.

"They get their energy from their aggression," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said.

"Their energy comes from their defence and their line speed.

"It's certainly something that we have to look at ... and appreciate what they are bringing and break what they are bringing. It's going to be one of them games."

The Dragons have already made clear they won't steer away from the forwards-first approach that had taken them to a first-up victory.

Jai Field will again come off the bench, likely slotting into the halves late, as allowed by the big-minute rotation of props Russell Packer, Paul Vaughan, Leeson Ah Mau and Tariq Sims.

"It's going to be physical. I'm not hiding away from that," McGregor said.

STATS THAT MATTER:

* The Dragons have not beaten Parramatta since they last clashed in Wollongong - in round 10 of 2013

* Last season, it took the Dragons seven matches to accumulate 40 points. They scored 42 last week

* Parramatta have not won their first two matches of a season since 1999. A win would mark their fourth straight, for the first time since 2010

- Stats supplied by Fox Sports

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