Roosters v Raiders Preview

Roosters v Raiders
SFS
Saturday 7.30pm

It might still only be April, and you can call us crazy, but the match-up between these two sides is potentially a real season-turner for both clubs.

The Roosters have started the season with a winning 3-2 record to be in ninth spot on the NRL ladder. But their two losses have been rather humbling and have exposed the inconsistent levels of football (the highs, the lows) they are currently capable of.

Last weekend’s loss to Penrith showed the side is, at this stage, a middle-of-the-road side; they have a heap of work to do to be considered premiership hopefuls, or even finals certainties.
 
The Raiders – basically forgotten about when talking finals chances – snuck up on the struggling Eels to improve to 2-3 and move up to 11th last weekend.

If they are to continue their own push towards an unlikely finals berth, it is matches like this one they will need to win.

Of course, the side note on this clash is Todd Carney. The former Raider, who was sacked for disciplinary reasons and sat out an entire NRL season playing football in the Queensland bush, plays against his former club for the first time.

Roosters coach Brian Smith has made a few changes, with two hookers out of the side in James Aubusson and last week’s rookie Daniel Fepuleai. Nick Kouparitsas and Ben Jones replace them. Boom Kiwi youngster Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has also been named on the bench, set to make his first appearance for the Roosters in the top grade after overcoming his shoulder injury.

The Raiders have stuck solid to the squad that took care of the Eels, their first victory on the road since June last year. Brett Kelly has been added as an 18th man.

Considering they haven’t beaten the Roosters at the SFS since 1995, it was a good week to remember how to win away from home.

Watch out Roosters: ‘Green Machine’ coach David Furner will be telling his players to try to fight against instinct in some situations in this game. When a ball goes to deck, the natural instinct of an opposition player is to just jump on the football, gain possession and take a settling run. But, considering the Roosters have already leaked four tries directly from turnovers this season – the most in the NRL – Furner will be suggesting his players look to attack while the iron is hot.

All it takes is some quick thinking, some vision to survey a potential disjointed defence, and a side can shift quickly and effectively.

The Roosters average about 12 errors a game and while they recover some of these to force scrums, others will give the Raiders a brief but exciting chance to attack.

Watch out Raiders: Here he comes. Little Toddy Carney, the boy from Goulburn who terrorised the junior league of the nation’s capital before terrorising the nations capital itself as a young adult.

Carney is now wiser, calmer, and in decent form. He averages 120 metres a match running, 85 metres a game kicking, has four line-breaks, three line-break assists, two tries and three try assists. He also has 28 tackle-breaks and 10 offloads. You can guarantee Carney will be out for a massive match and the Raiders will have to find a way to limit his involvement.

Perhaps they have some secrets from inside their vault… time will tell.

Where it will be won: The kicking game of both sides will be critical. Both sides have extremely high kick accuracy: the Roosters at 65.7 per cent and the Raiders lead the league with 69.8 per cent of their kicks finding space.

As both sides look to hem the other into the corners, the ability of the back three comes into play – and this is where the Raiders fall short against their rivals. In the five games this season the Roosters’ back three (two wingers and fullback) have run for an average 350.2 metres a match compared to the Raiders’ 336.8 metres, have an average two line-breaks a match compared to Canberra’s 1.2, score a try a match compared to 0.8 for the Raiders, have a try assist a match while the Raiders are yet to supply a try assist all year, and have 14.4 tackle-breaks a match compared to the Green Machine’s 10.8.

But, with the match on the line, it is the fact that both clubs have had error problems with this trio of players that could also play a role. The Raiders’ back three average more errors than any other club (with 4.2 a match) but the Roosters’ back three are right behind them with four errors a game.

The Raiders have notched 22 ‘good’ kick chases so far this season, with four poor ones, while the Roosters have 14 good and four bad. Both sides should push hard on kick-chase in an effort to force errors.
 
The history:
Played 48; Roosters 26, Raiders 22. The Raiders have won three of the past five clashes between the two clubs but the Chooks hold a commanding 12-3 record at the SFS and haven’t lost there to the Raiders since June 1995!

In recent times these clashes haven’t been close, with large margins between the sides.

Conclusion: The Raiders might have won on the road against the Eels but the SFS hoodoo is one that definitely weighs on their minds.

Over the years Canberra has failed at the SFS against the Roosters, with better sides and in big finals matches… but they say all good things must come to an end.

That said, don’t expect it to end here! The Roosters will get this done.

Match officials: Referees – Steve Lyons & Matt Cecchin; Sideline Officials – Daniel Eastwood & Adam Reid; Video Ref – Russell Smith.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7.30pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats.