Storm v Raiders Preview

Storm v Raiders
Olympic Park
Monday 7pm

The Storm and Raiders might not have the same heritage as the likes of South Sydney, Parramatta and Manly but they do have a nice rivalry born out of the berth of the ‘grapple’ tackle.

Back in 2003, when the two sides met in the finals, the Raiders made the first claims of being grappled and ever since then the Storm’s defensive style has been tarnished.

It has irked the Melbourne boys and their coach, former Canberra player Craig Bellamy, enough to make them extra keen to beat the Raiders. In fact they haven’t lost since that famous final and have won 13 in a row against the Raiders!

The home side comes into this match with a reasonable win over a shaky Roosters side, a result that has them sitting in sixth spot on the NRL ladder.

Cameron Smith and Adam Blair return to the starting side this week with Ryan Hinchcliffe and Brett White reverting to the bench. Scott Anderson has been added as an 18th man.

The Raiders have been struggling to find the form they displayed last season and are languishing back in 14th position.

They come off the bye but had suffered three straight losses before the break, giving them little to no momentum.

The Raiders have named the same 17 who were beaten by Penrith in their last match, with the addition of Tom Learoyd-Lahrs as an 18th man.

Watch out Storm:
It is imperative the Storm stays on the right side of the referees or expect them to be up against it.

Against the Roosters the Storm had poor discipline early and it cost Steve Turner a stint in the sin bin. Had the Roosters not fallen in to the same ill-disciplined pattern the Storm may have been headed for defeat.

They have conceded 60 penalties so far this year compared to Canberra who have just 37 to their name. If they get pounded by the whistle it will give the Raiders’ boys a sniff, and while the Storm attack is still a little disjointed, any Canberra lead could be enough to garner a huge upset.

Watch out Raiders: This is just the type of game Greg Inglis could dominate. The Raiders are without any ‘big name’ centres, giving Inglis the chance to take charge out wide and lift the Storm attack.

‘GI’ is averaging 116 metres a match and has six line breaks, one line-break assist, three try assists, three tries, 12 offloads and 43 tackle breaks. Expect Cooper Cronk and Brett Finch to feed Inglis as often as possible so he can use his strength and incredible fend. If the Raiders’ outside defenders can’t control him, he could finish the week with a five-star performance.

Where it will be won: Both sides have had issues with their attack this season so it will be the side that can finally get some flow with the ball that will take the points here.

The Raiders were an attacking machine last season but so far this year they have scored just 16.63 points a game to barely shade the Melbourne attack, which is posting 16.56 points a game.

In 2008 the Raiders were scoring 26 points a match to be ranked second in the NRL and the Storm were equal third with 23 points a match. It is important the forward packs work to get some good field position but both sets of halves need to take some responsibility for getting their backlines firing.

Melbourne halves Cooper Cronk and Brett Finch have both played representative football and need to recapture the form which saw them amongst the game’s elite.

For the Raiders, the fact they have a rookie halfback in Josh McCrone gives them some level of excuse; however Terry Campese is good enough to dictate play when he wants to. If he is to prove himself capable of being part of the New South Wales Origin campaign there is no better time to ramp up his attack than in front of the Blues’ coach.

The History: Played 23; Storm 18, Raiders 5. Melbourne are now on a 13-game run against the Raiders, with Canberra’s last victory coming seven seasons ago back in 2002. In 11 matches at Olympic Park the Canberra side has won just one, giving the Storm an almighty advantage in terms of history.

Conclusion: Despite their attacking woes the Storm have still found ways to win this season, while the Raiders haven’t been able to get the job done – which makes it hard to tip them in Melbourne.

Odds are the Storm will extend their streak over Canberra to 14 games, in fact if they don’t you can expect Craig Bellamy’s head to explode. That’s not to say the Raiders aren’t a chance – they are a slim chance – but you’d be very brave to tip them here.

Match officials: Referees – Tony Archer & Brett Suttor; Sideline Officials – Steve Carrall & Steve Chiddy; Video Ref – Bill Harrigan.

Televised: Fox Sports –Live 7pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats.