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Raiders v Knights preview

Raiders v Knights 
Canberra Stadium
Sunday, 2pm

Forget focusing all your attention on the Rabbitohs-Cowboys and Sea Eagles-Roosters this weekend – we think the Raiders-Knights meeting could be one of the games of the round, too!

There’s no team oozing more confidence this week than the Green Machine – last round they ended the Storm’s superb 15-game winning streak… in Melbourne! Their 24-20 victory, built on brilliant backline runs that sliced through and around the Storm’s fringes, not only gives hope to any other team facing the reigning champions, but it proves the credentials of the David Furner-coached Canberra boys, too. The Raiders currently sit in ninth position after four wins and four losses in 2013.

The Knights, meanwhile, were pipped by a point against the Sharks in Newcastle last week, but their form for the most part this season has been impressive. They’ve slaughtered the Tigers, smashed the Cowboys, trumped the Titans and triumphed over the Raiders already in 2013. They sit pretty on the competition ladder in fifth place.

For the Raiders, prop David Shillington has been named on the bench for his return from a rib injury, with Dane Tilse set to start the match. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, however, is expected to be sidelined for an indefinite period with a foot complaint after suffering an injury against the Storm. 

Also, Glen Buttriss is set to miss at least one match, after he underwent surgery yesterday after sustaining a finger injury against Melbourne. Shaun Berrigan has been named 18th man.

For the Knights, playmaker Jarrod Mullen, who was cleared of structural damage to his knee on Monday, has been ruled out of the game due to bone bruising. Captain Kurt Gidley, who is set to play his 200th game, replaces Mullen at five-eighth and Tyrone Roberts starts at halfback. Matt Hilder and Neville Costigan have been added to an extended bench.

Watch Out Raiders: Despite the positive recent form, Canberra’s record for line-breaks and errors is anything but pleasing for coaching staff and fans. In fact, the Raiders have a real problem cracking opponents, averaging just 2.9 breaks per game (last in the NRL), committing the second-most number of errors each game (11.9), too.

If the Knights can conjure up enough points without their attacking conductor Mullen, their defence (conceding 14 points per game – third in the NRL) should hold firm. 

Watch Out Knights: The Raiders have some seriously impressive form at home – they’ve won all three matches this year (against the Dragons, Roosters and Warriors) and were last beaten at Canberra Stadium in Round 21 last year… by the Knights! The Raiders go up by more than a cog at their home base in Bruce – they’ve scored an additional 13 points, concede 11 fewer and complete almost eight per cent more sets at home this year, too!

Plays To Watch: Bustling back Blake Ferguson busting through the defensive line and doing everything in his power to elevate his name up the list of ‘potentials’ for the NSW Blues – he’s a definite candidate following recent injuries; Aku Uate sniffing out four-point opportunities – he has scored eight tries in 11 games against the Raiders, and four tries in five matches in Canberra; big boppers Dane Tilse and Brett White laying out the ‘welcome mat’ for Kade Snowden and Willie Mason – don’t expect Devonshire tea on arrival though, boys; Raiders halves Josh McCrone and Terry Campese shifting the ball wide and early – Robinson, Wighton and Ferguson made all Canberra’s line-breaks last week.

Key Match-Up: They’re not big names but a big game from either of the halfbacks, Josh McCrone and Tyrone Roberts, will have a huge impact on either side. 

Both players’ positions are still somewhat up for grabs: McCrone must still be feeling the pressure from demoted fellow No.7 Sam Williams following Terry Campese’s return; Roberts understands he’ll continue to bounce between the bench and starting No.7 until he demands more time with consistently dominant performances. 

Here’s another chance for the two halfbacks to lock down their starting playmaking position – for good!

Where It Will Be Won: The battle of the Raiders’ and Knights’ outside men – Reece Robinson, Sandor Earl, Jack Wighton, Blake Ferguson and Edrick Lee against Darius Boyd, James McManus, Dane Gagai, Timana Tahu and Akuila Uate – will be most important. 

It promises to be an entertaining, show-stopping performance too – combined, the two sets of outside backs have already broken defensive lines 28 times this year. Get set for more powerhouse charges and elusive running here. 

The History: Played 38; Raiders 20, Knights 17, drawn 1. At Canberra Stadium, the ledger is firmly in the home team’s favour though, with the Green Machine victorious in 14 of the 19 meetings.

Match Officials: Referees – Jason Robinson & Gavin Morris; Sideline Officials – Adam Reid & Matt Noyen; Video Referees – Paul Mellor & Luke Patten.

NRL Live 2013 App: Gives you access to every NRL game this season on your iPhone or Android smartphone as it’s being broadcast on TV, with up to six live games each week including the Raiders v Knights clash. Plus latest live scores, breaking news, comprehensive match highlights and full match replays.

Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live 2pm.

The Way We See It: Oozing confidence and welcoming back a key player in Shillington, the Raiders should feel entitled to be all over the Knights who are missing one of their key players. But Newcastle should feel a need to be ‘up’ for Gidley’s 200th NRL match, too. This could be a pearler. Canberra by two points.

*Statistics: NRL Stats

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