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Raiders v Titans preview

Raiders prop David Shillington plays his 100th game for the Raiders on Sunday. Copyright: NRL Photos/Colin Whelan. Credit: NRL Photos/Colin Whelan. Copyright: NRL Photos/Colin Whelan.
Raiders v Titans
GIO Stadium
Sunday 6:30pm (AEST)

Have you got a dictionary lying around? If you do, scour it for the word 'disappointment'. Does it mention anything about the Gold Coast Titans playing at Cbus Super Stadium last weekend? No? Well perhaps it should. The Titans were clearly not themselves on the weekend after capitulating to the might of the Wests Tigers. Captain Nate Myles screamed himself hoarse, Greg Bird went down injured and coach John Cartwright couldn’t help but feel sorry for his side’s supporters after their 42-12 defeat to the wooden spoon favourites.

Unlike the Round 1 win over the Sharks, the Titans' defence failed to hold firm against the Tigers. While it’s only early in the season, the Titans will have to be extra careful moving forward in preventing a repeat performance in anyway reminiscent to their efforts in Round 2 – especially giving they are facing a red-hot Raiders side who are seeking redemption after the 36-zip pasting they copped the last time they met.

Canberra are currently playing like their lives depend on solid performances. Their well-balanced side is complemented by the class of fullback Anthony Milford, the level-headedness of captain and halfback Terry Campese and the obvious influence of new coach Ricky Stuart. With the Raiders having let in 20+ points in both of their games this season and losing lock Shaun Fensom (suspension) and Josh Papalii (ankle) for this week’s game, they’ll have to be wary of closing down a mobile Titans team.

In team changes, Maurice Blair is out for the Titans with Brad Takairangi to replace him, while Mark Minichiello returns after being kept out of last week’s game with a virus. While for the Raiders, David Shillington and Matt McIlwrick come into the side for Fensom and Papalii. It will be Shillington’s 100th appearance for the Canberra Raiders.

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Watch Out Raiders: While the Gold Titans haven’t had the greatest of starts to 2014 there has been a bright spark in the form of Albert Kelly. Kelly, who has had his troubles previously, has really turned it on for the Titans this season. With two tries, two line-breaks, a try assist and an average of 232.2 metres per game to boot, Kelly is living up to the reputation he has had since coming into first-grade in 2010.  With Kelly on song and his combination with (now injured) five-eighth Aidan Sezer growing – the Raiders should be wary off a Gold Coast bounce-back. With names like Myles, Bailey, Douglas, Zillman, Bird and Harrison on their roster, the Titans have too good a side not to be competitive this week – especially in light of the performance they put forward last weekend.
 
Watch Out Titans: The Raiders' spine is getting stronger with each week. Terry Campese looks to be returning to such form not seen since he played State of Origin, Glenn Buttriss and Josh McCrone are playing admirably out of hooker while Jack Wighton is building to something special at five-eighth. As for Anthony Milford – we don’t need to tell you how good he is. His wizard-like two try assists and three line-breaks are basically keeping Canberra on the front foot.
 
Plays To Watch: Jack Wighton – who knew he had a kicking game – set up the Raiders first try last weekend with a pristine grubber into the in-goal before kicking a crucial 40/20 late in the game; Albert Kelly’s ability of making something out of nothing – for the second week in a row Kelly weaved his way through the defence of the opposition for several long-range runs and another runaway try; Paul Vaughan’s enormous impact off the interchange bench – for the second week in a row the Italian international has been unleashed off the bench with positives consequences for the Raiders, averaging 12 hit-ups for 150 metres and 24 tackles; Nate Myles – captain courageous – has smashed out 35.2 tackles per game from the front-row so far this season.

Where It Will Be Won: While the Raiders have been playing quite well this season, their opposition have been able to put on several point scoring plays against them throughout their opening two games. The Raiders are currently conceding on average a concerning 24 points per game in 2014. In an interesting plot twist, the Titans victory over the Sharks in Round 1 saw the side concede only two tries in a low-scoring 16-12 victory. Yet in Round 2, they opened the turnstiles and invited the Tigers in for 42 points. In what could prove to be a learning curve, both sides should be looking to prevent their opposition from crossing the white line as consistently as they have been to cement any chance of victory.
 

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The History: Played 13; Raiders 5, Titans 8. It has been all one-sided in recent memory with the Titans winning four of their past five games against the Raiders. It is more likely than not that when these two sides go up against one another it involves a flurry of points. Despite all this, the Raiders were no match for the Titans in their last meeting in Round 2 last year – shut out of the contest 36-0.
 
What Are The Odds: Despite being opened as $1.53 favourites, money is 50/50 for the Raiders and Titans ($2.38) so far with Sportsbet.com.au. Punters aren’t going anywhere near the -4.5 line that’s currently on offer.

Match Officials: Referees – Gavin Badger & Brett Suttor; Touch Judges – Dave Ryan & Matt Noyen; Video Referees – Luke Phillips & Steve Folkes.

Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live 6:30pm (AEDT).

The Way We See It: The Titans were absolutely miserable last week so this one should really be a no-brainer. However, rugby league is a funny game and weirder things have happened. The Raiders have been impressive so far this season and playing down in Canberra for the first time this year will only help the Green Machine. Raiders by 8 points.

Statistics: Champion Data.
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