Warriors v Raiders Preview

Warriors v Raiders
Mt Smart Stadium
Saturday 5pm (NZ Time)

You had to feel for the Warriors at least a little last week, as they were running head-on into a literal storm when they arrived in Melbourne. But they must dust themselves off, come out of the tornado bunker, and regroup to meet a hurting Raiders side who were affected by another whirlwind: one of opposition Rabbitohs tries in the second half.

Hours before the Warriors were punished by the Storm in Melbourne last Sunday, the Raiders let slip another big half-time lead to be run down by South Sydney.

Wounded, battered, bruised, these two clubs are now in a battle to revive their seasons and must find some motivation from somewhere to lift their beleaguered spirits and confidence.

The home side Warriors now find themselves in 10th spot on the NRL ladder, outside the finals zone due to a poor negative differential; they must win back the fans who had some hope three weeks ago but have now started to worry following back-to-back heavy defeats.

Coach Ivan Cleary has instigated a backline reshuffle, with Wade McKinnon dropping to the bench, Lance Hohaia moving from five-eighth to fullback, Joel Moon moving from centre to five-eighth, Brent Tate moving back to the centres from the wing and Patrick Ah Van coming into the side on the wing.

Forward Jacob Lillyman is out injured, which sees Ben Matulino start, while Jeremy Latimore has been added to a five-man bench.

Canberra coach David Furner has seemingly resisted the urge to make mass changes to his side, with the only change being cosmetic at this stage. David Shillington has earned a starting spot at prop, with Scott Logan reverting to the bench. Marc Herbert and Troy Thompson have been named as extra reserves for the trip across the Tasman.

Currently in 14th spot, the Raiders can see their season starting to slip away and must find another gear. Thankfully Melbourne are guaranteed last place, so they can at least rest easy in that regard.

Watch out Warriors: Josh Dugan, you are the man!

If you missed his try against South Sydney last week, do yourself a favour, click on the Game Analyser, or our plays of the week, and take a look now.

CLICK HERE to see it.

Don’t worry, we’ll wait right here… Wow, right? Yes, Dugan didn’t change hands and try to fend off Rhys Wesser, but wow! His acrobatic effort around the corner post was one of the best pieces of athleticism you will ever see.

The Warriors need to be very wary of this kid. He is now averaging 158 metres a match, has five line-breaks for the year, a line-break assist, a try assist and two tries to go with 57 tackle-breaks, which leads the NRL. He also leads the NRL in tackle saves with 10.

Watch out Raiders: Young Warriors halfback James Maloney was a bit down on himself last week after misfiring against his old club. But this is a kid with plenty of talent and it would not be surprising to see him lift his efforts and produce a blinder against the Raiders.

His three line-breaks, three line-break assists, three tries and five try assists are reasonable figures for a rookie halfback at this stage of the season, but perhaps it is time for a breakout match.

This represents a great chance to see his true character. Just how will he respond?

Here at NRL.com we are predicting he’ll come good and put together a match-winning performance.

Where it will be won: Basics. It’s time for both teams to get back to the basics if they want to compete in the NRL at a reasonable level. This starts with minimising errors.

The Raiders are truly terrible in this category, with 104 already this season – only better than Cronulla. The Warriors aren’t much better with 87 errors in season 2010.

With so many turnovers of possession it becomes almost impossible to win matches and also opens the door for huge momentum shifts in games.

The Raiders have let big leads go on a few occasions this year after they allowed their opposition to build momentum and score back-to-back-to-back tries, due mainly to dumb errors. The focus for both sides needs to be completing sets. Once they do this they can look to their playmakers to make things happen.

There is no doubt both teams have skill, but this cannot be truly unleashed without disciplined completions and go-forward first.

The history:
Played 24; Warriors 11, Raiders 13. These two teams are fairly evenly matched over history, splitting the past eight games four each.

The Warriors have won two thirds of the games at Mt Smart Stadium, with an 8-4 advantage. Last year’s games were split with the Warriors winning 34-20 in Auckland but the Raiders won 38-12 in Canberra.

Conclusion:
Both sides could easily take the competition points here but the Warriors have looked better this season with Lance Hohaia at fullback and he returns there this weekend.

The Raiders are just too hot-and-cold to tip with any confidence, and while the Warriors aren’t much better, one gets the feeling they will do enough to contain Canberra.

It will probably be a high-scoring match with thrills, but also plenty of spills, so if you are a fan of either club be ready to keep your frustrations in check.

Match officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Adam Devcich; Sideline Officials – Ricky McFarlane & Gavin Reynolds; Video Ref – Sean Hampstead.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 3pm.