Splutter, spurt, clunk… the Green Machine is barely operational. Meow… the Wests Tigers are far from roaring.
But if we are to believe 30 competition points is the magic number for finals football… well, this match becomes a grand final for these two combatants.
The Raiders, currently 14th on the ladder, need to win all seven of their remaining games to reach the magic 30 points after a last-start loss to Penrith.
While they might be confident they can dispose of the Tigers this round and the Broncos next week while they play at home, the following two games against the Bulldogs and Dragons might just be a bridge too far.
Nevertheless they won’t be looking any further ahead than Sunday afternoon against the Wests Tigers, who did well to dispose of the Cowboys last weekend.
The Tigers, currently in 11th, two wins behind eighth place, need to win six of the last seven to get to 30 points. They have a reasonable chance considering their next five games including this one are against four sides outside the top eight.
But just like the Raiders, the Tigers cannot afford to think too far ahead… they must win this clash to keep the dream alive.
The home-side Raiders have named Glen Buttriss to start at hooker, which sees Nigel Plum move back to the bench and Alan Tongue start at lock.
Origin star Tom Learoyd-Lahrs is out with Glen Turner coming into the starting side in the forwards, while Trevor Thurling and Joe Picker have been added to the bench.
For the Wests Tigers, coach Tim Sheens has stuck solid with the side that disposed of the Cowboys, with the only change being the addition of Dean Collis as an 18th man.
Watch out Raiders: The Wests Tigers have been pretty deadly at scoring tries from kicks and there is no reason to suggest they won’t employ the tactic here. The side has scored 15 tries from the boot so far this season with only Brisbane, Penrith and Souths scoring more.
The Raiders have conceded 15 tries to the boot, which has them ranked 13th, so it makes sense the black, gold and whites will stick the boot in. Canberra’s major weakness is the bomb; they are ranked equal second last at defusing the high kicks.
Watch out Wests Tigers: Daytime football in Canberra equals popped passes and great offloads. The Raiders love playing in the sunshine as it means they can promote second-phase football much more often.
Already they have punched out 246 offloads for the season to be ranked behind only Parramatta while the Wests Tigers are ranked way down in 11th when it comes to this particular skill with just 170 for the season.
If the Tigers cannot find a way to wrap up the football they will be facing an avalanche of breaks and potentially an avalanche of points.
Where it will be won: This game is shaping as an all-out attacking assault considering it is daytime football and both sides are certainly skill-centric.
We could easily say defence is the key factor but reality is neither side is much good at it so maybe the better ploy is to just come out firing and try to score 40 points and restrict the opposition to 38. This means the game will come down to who takes the chances when they come. The side who can convert their breaks into points and minimises errors will be victorious.
So far this season the Wests Tigers have made 89 line breaks (3rd in the NRL) while the Raiders have 72 for the year to be ranked equal 12th. The Raiders have turned just 16 of those line breaks directly into tries, which equates to just over 22 per cent conversion rate. But the Wests Tigers have turned 24 of their line breaks directly into tries for a strike rate of just under 27 per cent.
The Raiders need to watch Robbie Farah in particular as the Tigers have 12 line breaks from dummy-half, the most of any side in the NRL.
The history: Played 17; Raiders 9, Wests Tigers 8. The Wests Tigers kick-started their 2009 season with a 34-26 win over the Raiders but the Canberra boys have won three of the past five clashes between the clubs. At Canberra Stadium the Raiders have won six of nine matches.
Conclusion: Mathematically the Raiders can still make the finals but you get the feeling it’s beyond gone for them. The Tigers though, thanks to their draw in the next few weeks, do have an opportunity to do something special and as such they should be more than hungry to win here.
The Raiders are tough to beat at home, especially in the daytime, and will be a tough prospect but if the 2005 premiers are serious they should get the result.
But please don’t bet your house on it as the Raiders are full of pride and while there is life, there is hope. The loss of Learoyd-Lahrs is big though. The Tigers… just.
Match officials: Referees – Tony Archer & Phil Haines; Sideline Officials – Steve Carrall & Mohamad Fajajo; Video Ref – Phil Cooley.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm.
* Statistics: NRL Stats.