Who would’ve thought just a few weeks ago this could be billed as one of the matches of the round? But finally the Raiders have returned to form after a shock victory against the Storm last weekend with their season on the line, and this week they take on the all-conquering Titans.
John Cartwright’s men have resisted the halfway fall from grace that plagued them during the past two seasons and they sit pretty near the top of the table. This clash is sure to be dramatic and entertaining, especially seeing as though any imbalance between the line-ups will surely be offset by the fact the Titans may struggle to deal with Canberra’s expected chilly afternoon.
Watch out Raiders: The Titans have recorded four wins on the trot and have done so without the services of Luke Bailey, Mat Rogers, Mark Minichiello and Ashley Harrison in various matches. Quite simply they’re on fire after recent victories over the Warriors, Roosters, Dragons and Sea Eagles.
The Raiders have plenty to be wary of – including influential duo Preston Campbell and Scott Prince. Campbell (seven line breaks, seven line-break assists, 10 try assists and two tries) has been electric as always while Prince (four line breaks, seven line-break assists, three tries, and nine try assists) continues to effectively marshal his troops. Coupled with the second row of Laffranchi (1630 metres at an average of 125 per game) and Meyers (four line breaks and three tries) and it’s an effective team across the park. The Raiders had better muscle up.
Watch out Titans: The Raiders’ last-start victory against Melbourne 26-16 came on the back of some very effective play from their outside backs, especially Joel Monaghan and Justin Carney. Monaghan in particular is effective when a high ball is put up so the Titans should expect plenty of bombs-away moments – and the Raiders will be looking to exploit their bomb defusal rate of just 65 per cent.
Monaghan has been very strong this season (eight line breaks, two line-break assists, seven tries and two try assists) while Carney (four line breaks and seven tries) has continued to be strong whilst benefitting from his inside man. Dumped NSW five-eighth Terry Campese (five line breaks, 10 line-break assists, 16 try assists and two tries) has given good ball to the players outside him, as has rising half Marc Herbert (two line breaks, nine line-break assists, nine try assists and one try). Prop David Shillington (1399 metres for an average of 117 per game) could be labelled ‘buy of the year’.
Where it will be won: The prop-forward battle between Raiders Shillingon, partner Troy Thompson (607 metres at an average of 67 in just nine games) and Josh Miller (1373 metres at an average of 98 metres per game) and Titans props Matthew White (568 metres at an average of 63 per game), Michael Henderson (961 metres at an average of 87 per game) and Aaron Cannings (650 metres at an average of 65 per game) will be crucial.
These big boppers patrolling the middle of the field are in charge of getting their team over the advantage line to provide room for their halves to initiate plays. Whoever gets the dominance in the middle of the ruck should win.
The history: Played 5; Titans 3, Raiders 2. The Titans won the only clash so far this season, defeating the Raiders 16-10 at Skilled Park. Last year the honours were shared with the Raiders smashing the Gold Coast in Canberra 46-4 before being smashed themselves 28-8 on the Coast.
Conclusion: It’s a big match for both teams, with the Titans aiming to continue their winning streak, but the stakes are highest for the home side. Expect their big men to get on top early and provide room for Campese, Monaghan and co. to work their magic.
After a strong victory over last year’s grand-finalists, it’s time the Raiders chalked up another victory – and the home ground advantage should prove significant.
Match officials: Referees – Gavin Badger and Chris James; Sideline Officials – Steve Chiddy and Adam Reid; Video Ref – Chris Ward.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live from 2pm.