SYDNEY — A rivalry that had lost some of its sizzle in recent seasons is suddenly shaping as one of the more intriguing match-ups of Round 2 as Parramatta look to continue their hot start to the 2013 season and the Bulldogs try to prove that they will again be one of the teams to beat.
Eels fans have had a tough time of it in the three years since their 2009 grand final appearance, sinking to their first wooden spoon finish in 40 years last season, but the arrival of new coach Ricky Stuart has certainly lifted spirits out west.
Still, no-one could have predicted the explosive manner in which Stuart's tenure would begin as Parramatta romped to a 40-10 thrashing of the Warriors last weekend
No doubt the sight of the blue and gold sitting at the top of the NRL ladder — even if it is very early days, will be enjoyed by the club faithful this week.
Stuart promised to stiffen the Eels' defence this season after they leaked an average 28 points per game in 2012 but it was in attack that they really shined against the Warriors with the form of Chris Sandow and Jarryd Hayne providing genuine reasons to be excited.
Sandow appears to have put the doubts that plagued him last season behind him as his lethal running game returned while Hayne has been largely relieved of playmaking duties to play a more traditional fullback's role. He scored three tries as the 'Hayne Plane' made its welcome return.
But as was widely predicted, the absence of Bulldogs forwards James Graham, Sam Kasiano and Frank Pritchard and, most tellingly, Dally M Medallist Ben Barba proved too much for them last weekend as they crashed to a 24-12 loss to North Queensland.
However, the fact that they were up against a side expected to give the title a huge shake this season can't be ignored.
Far from disgraced, Canterbury loom as a much sterner test of Parramatta's finals credentials and they certainly won't fall apart like the Warriors did under pressure. If anything, it is polish that the Bulldogs are lacking, with the onus now on halves Josh Reynolds and Kris Keating to spark them into gear.
The upshot is that both sides still have plenty to prove after Round 1 and with their fortunes gradually turning, this could well prove to be one of the epic clashes between two teams that have never offered one another much love.