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2 days ago
Two unpredictable sides meet in contrasting circumstances
Raiders fans experienced an unfortunate sense of déjà vu last weekend when the Green Machine was pipped 30-28 for the second week straight. Canberra entered the final ten minutes of the game with an eight-point lead only to concede two late tries and slump to defeat. Ricky Stuart's side were in control for a significant portion of the second half, yet key defensive lapses cost them victory. As a result, the Raiders enter Round 3 in 12th position with no competition points to their name. Aidan Sezer starts the game at five-eighth with Blake Austin moving to the bench while enigmatic centre Joseph Leilua is still a chance of playing despite picking up an ankle injury in the match against Newcastle.
Last year, the New Zealand Warriors also had a tendency to collapse when placed under pressure by the opposition team. Stephen Kearney's side, however, have rarely found themselves under significant stress as they have cruised to comfortable victories in their two games played thus far in 2018. Their latest triumph, 20-8 over the Gold Coast Titans, would have pleased coach Kearney with their resolute defence in particular a promising sign. The score line could have been even more impressive if their execution was more polished. Execution will be particularly important this week given that New Zealand prepare to face one of the most potent attacking teams in the competition in the Raiders. What may assist them in this is second-phase play. This was an area in which Kearney's team excelled last week, with the Warriors managing 28 offloads in last weekend's game. In team news, workhorse Simon Mannering is still sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Last meeting: Round 23 2017 - Warriors 16 Raiders 36
The Raiders rolled the Warriors 36-16 in Round 23 last year at Mt. Smart Stadium. Star halfback Shaun Johnson was absent from that clash.
Who to watch: For the home side, all eyes with be on both Aidan Sezer and Sam Williams if the Raiders are leading within the final twenty minutes. As they did in 2017, tight games continue to haunt the Canberra outfit and the onus falls back upon both the five-eighth and halfback to close out the victory through a tactical kicking game. While the Raiders are certainly more than capable of matching the Warriors in attack, it is in the crucial later stages of the contest that Sezer and Williams really need to step up and make wise choices.
Conversely, after a man-of-the-match performance last week, in-form fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck appears the likely candidate to break this game open for the away side. The New Zealand skipper has one try, three try-assists, three line breaks, seven tackle busts and 298 running metres to his name from two appearances in 2018 and will prove a handful for Canberra's shaky defence.
The favourite: Throw form out the window because the Raiders are favoured to take the points here despite their nervous start to the year.
My tip: I cannot logically back the Raiders based on their performances alone thus far, yet desperation may be just enough to see them sneak home. Gamble responsibly here because your guess is as good as mine. Raiders by 4.
1. Jack Wighton 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Aidan Sezer 7. Sam Williams 8. Iosia Soliola 9. Siliva Havili 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Josh Papalii 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Luke Bateman 14. Blake Austin 15. Junior Paulo 16. Dunamis Lui 17. Liam Knight
1. Roger Tuivasa-sheck 2. David Fusitua 3. Peta Hiku 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Blake Green 7. Shaun Johnson 8. James Gavet 9. Issac Luke 10. Adam Blair 11. Leivaha Pulu 12. Tohu Harris 15. Agnatius Paasi 14. Jazz Tevaga 13. Ligi Sao 16. Sam Lisone 17. Bunty Afoa
Referees: Grant Atkins, Jon Stone; Sideline Officials: Phil Henderson, Nick Morel; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Ben Galea;