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Last-start losers chase redemption
Highly fancied to continue their winning ways last Sunday, a late try saw the Bulldogs go down 18-12 to Wests Tigers. Returning to the same venue six days later, coach Des Hasler will be hoping to make amends with better last-play options after a misguided kick by Greg Eastwood laid the platform for the Tigers to secure victory last week. Retaining the same squad that has performed so well over the past month, expect the Bulldogs to follow a similar formation with Matt Frawley coming into the match midway through the first half. Included on an extended bench, don't be surprised to see William Hopoate come into the final squad, likely at the expense of Marcelo Montoya.
Going down in a grueling extra time fixture last Friday, the Raiders will similarly be out to make up for their 20-18 loss by downing a Bulldogs outfit littered with threats. Having done enough to beat the Sea Eagles in Canberra, coach Ricky Stuart will be stressing the need to drive home an established lead, while remaining resolute in the defensive structures that saw the side make it to the penultimate match of 2016. Keeping the faith with the same core squad named frequently throughout the season so far, Clay Priest comes onto the bench with Dunamis Lui named as 18th man; having made his debut for New Zealand in the Four Nations last year, backrower Joe Tapine looks to have moved ahead of Iosia Soliola as preferred starting lock following a strong start to the season.
Last meeting: Round 12 2016 - Raiders 32 Bulldogs 20
Who to watch: Having been a cornerstone of representative teams for many years, Bulldogs centre Josh Morris faces an uncertain future in the lead up to State of Origin. Debuting for New South Wales in the same year he shifted across from the Dragons, Morris will be out to upstage his opposing centre Joey Leilua who has been touted as a potential debutant for the Blues this season. Turning 30 last season, Morris has proven his worth consistently over the past decade, but with a host of younger players nipping at his heels the speedster will need to lift to ensure his representative career doesn't meet a premature end.
He may have debuted for Australia last year and included as part of the extended squad to battle the Kiwis next Friday, but Canberra prop will be looking to press his claims for a Blues jersey with a big showing in the lead up to the representative season. Having been among the first players to debut for the Raiders following Ricky Stuart's appointment three years ago, the 24-year-old has gone from strength-to-strength with a series of impressive showings to solidify his stance from interchange forward to starting front rower. Facing off against two of the best props in the NRL, look for Boyd to lead from the front and demand selection for the Origin series opener in just under a month.
The favourite: While both sides have been on the improve after slow starts to 2017, the Raiders are favoured slightly to come away with the win.
My tip: With attacking threats across the park, look for the Raiders to have too many points in them. Raiders by 12.
23. William Hopoate 2. Kerrod Holland 3. Josh Morris 4. Brenko Lee 1. Brett Morris 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Moses Mbye 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. James Graham 11. Josh Jackson 16. Adam Elliot 13. David Klemmer 12. Greg Eastwood 14. Sam Kasiano 15. Danny Fualalo 20. Matt Frawley
1. Jack Wighton 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Junior Paulo 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Josh Papalii 12. Elliot Whitehead 15. Luke Bateman 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Adam Clydsdale 16. Clay Priest 17. Iosia Soliola
Referees: Henry Perenara, Chris James; Sideline Officials: Brett Suttor, Kasey Badger; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Ben Galea;