Canberra is poised to turn on a bitterly cold winter’s evening when the Broncos ride into the nation’s capital on Monday night. With temperatures expected to hit a maximum of 15 degrees, the visitors are set to receive a frosty reception in all senses of the term.
The Raiders will look for any advantage they can get as they attempt to return to winning ways after going down to the Roosters 26-12 on the road in Round 12. It’s been an inconsistent first half of the season for Canberra, unable to string two wins together in 2014 as they adjust to life under new coach Ricky Stuart.
Brisbane brushed all off-field dramas aside as they dealt the Sea Eagles a hefty 36-10 defeat in a rare afternoon game at Suncorp Stadium. Three wins on the trot has seen the Broncos consolidate a place in the top eight and with the tough Origin period just beginning, they’ll need to continue in this fashion if they are to meet their goal of a top four finish.
Stuart has stuck solid with the same Canberra 17 that faced the Roosters, while the Broncos will receive a boost with the return of Maroons centre Justin Hodges. Dale Copley reverts to the wing and Lachlan Maranta joins an extended bench.
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High-profile recruit Ben Barba has – according to some – so far failed to live up to expectations 12 games into his Broncos career. However, there were some ominous signs last Sunday, indicating that a return to his best might not be too far off.
The classy fullback laid on a try assist and had a hand in several other attacking raids, reminding us all of the talent he possesses. With some calling for Hodges to shift to custodian, a big showing in Canberra from Barba will be sure to keep the naysayers at bay.Watch Out Broncos:
Jack Wighton’s return to the centres has been a big plus for the Raiders in recent weeks. After a standout performance against the Cowboys in Round 11 (which included two tries, two try assists, two line breaks, two line break assists and 172 run metres), Wighton put in a solid showing against the Roosters, claiming a try, line break, four tackle breaks and 102 run metres.
Wighton is no liability in defence either and will cause the Broncos’ left edge plenty of headaches.
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Paul Vaughan has been a revelation in 2014, scoring five tries and getting through a mountain of work in his 12 appearances for the Green Machine. Playing as an edge forward, his combination of speed and power will certainly keep the Broncos’ left side on its toes. A flat ball to a hard-running Vaughan one-on-one with a smaller opponent could well result in try No.6.
For the Broncos, the importance of Hodges is not be downplayed. The experienced centre brings plenty to the table with his darts from dummy half and silky passing. Look for Hodges to chime in as a pseudo-fullback when Brisbane are close to the line.Where It Will Be Won:
The spine. Both sides rely heavily on Terry Campese and Ben Hunt to work through the bulk of their kicks in general play, with Josh McCrone and Anthony Milford supporting for the Raiders and Andrew McCullough and Barba chiming in for the Broncos.
Executing the right plays on the fifth tackle will be a must, with much of the burden lying with Campese and Hunt. The creativity of Barba and Milford will also be key. If the Raiders’ custodian can get one over the club he is set to join from 2015, it will go a long way to shaping the outcome.The History:
Played 47; Raiders 19, Broncos 26. Both sides share five wins each in their last 10 encounters, while the Raiders hold the upper hand of recent times, winning the last two, including a 30-18 victory at GIO Stadium in this corresponding fixture last season.What Are The Odds:
Punters at Sportsbet.com.au are keen on Brisbane, with the money coming in three to one for the Broncos following their great win over Manly. Despite that, the Raiders have come in from $2.39 to $2.25.Match Officials:
Referee – Adam Devcich; Assistant Referee – Adam Gee; Touch Judges – Gavin Reynolds & Grant Atkins; Video Referees – Steve Clark & Henry Perenara.Televised:
LIVE Fox Sports 1 - 7pm (AEST).The Way We See It:
The Raiders will be desperate to claim the two points in front of the Canberra faithful. While the Broncos are firm favourites, if conditions play into the Raiders’ hands, a good recent record suggests a Monday night upset wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. We’re tipping Milford might just give Broncos fans a glimpse of what they have to look forward to. Raiders 1-12.