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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Raiders presented with perfect chance to take down depleted Roosters
The Raiders finally re-entered the Top Eight last week courtesy of a hard-fought 22-16 win over the Eels and are gifted with the chance to consolidate their position this week when they battle the in-form yet undermanned Roosters. Unlike the Roosters, Canberra are largely unaffected by the Origin period, with second rower Josh Papalii the only Raider selected for Wednesday night's clash. However, as a result, expectations will be high on Sunday afternoon. Ricky Stuart's men have arguably already unperformed this season and a loss on Sunday would pose serious questions over their premiership credentials.
On the other hand, a victory for the fourth placed Roosters would be highly impressive given their notable absences this week because of State of Origin duties. Aidan Guerra, Blake Ferguson, Boyd Cordner, Dylan Napa and Mitchell Pearce will be all missing from Sunday's clash. Therefore, coach Trent Robinson will be demanding his forward pack to stand up as well as stand-in halfback Luke Keary who is partnered by the versatile Connor Watson. Luckily for Robinson, his side is blessed with sufficient depth to handle the strain of Origin, yet a win on Sunday afternoon would still be quite the achievement given the quality of players who will be absent.
Last meeting: Round 2 2016 - Raiders 21 Roosters 20
Canberra claimed a thrilling 21-20 victory on the back of a Sam Williams field goal in Round 2 last year.
Who to watch: The media seems to have gone quiet on him, yet Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson continues to impress. Hodgson leads the Raiders for try-assists this season with six and has maintained his high work-rate, averaging 36 tackles a game. The Raiders have the advantage up front this week against the Origin-impacted Roosters pack and Hodgson's ability to get give them good, early service will be key to victory.
After starring in the 2017 Auckland Nines, utility Connor Watson has been forced to watch the majority of his side's matches from the bench, averaging just 20 minutes a game. However, Mitchell Pearce's Origin call up sees Watson presented with a shot to prove his value to coach Robinson. Watson was promoted to Robinson's starting side from Round 19 last year and made seven line breaks, compared to just two from his eight appearances from the bench at the beginning of the year. If given the space, his speed could prove a serious issue for Canberra's big men to handle.
The favourite: The Raiders are expected to account for the depleted Roosters.
My tip: If Canberra lose this there will be massive questions asked of their premiership credentials. Raiders by 14.
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 15. Luke Bateman 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Iosia Soliola 14. Adam Clydsdale 11. Joseph Tapine 16. Clay Priest 17. Dunamis Lui
1. Michael Gordon 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Mitchell Aubusson 5. Joseph Manu 6. Connor Watson 7. Luke Keary 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Kane Evans 11. Ryan Matterson 12. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 13. Zane Tetevano 14. Isaac Liu 15. Lindsay Collins 16. Chris Smith 17. Mitchell Cornish 18. Nat Butcher
Referees: Henry Perenara, Dave Munro; Sideline Officials: Russell Turner, Chris Sutton; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Luke Patten;