Raiders v Storm Preview

Raiders v Storm
Canberra Stadium
Saturday 7.30pm

Okay… now we will find out what the Storm are really made of in 2010.

The inevitable letdown came last weekend against a fired-up yet inexperienced Broncos outfit, with tired bodies and tired minds unable to match the enthusiasm of a team with more to play for.

The sobering reality of playing for pride only has by now fully sunk in, and the depth of the motivation well inside each individual is being well and truly tested.

Now they must regroup and head to the nation’s capital to take on a desperate Raiders outfit who are fresh from a bye and looking to push into top-eight calculations.

The Raiders had a win over the Warriors in their last outing, and with time to freshen up they enter this clash with no excuses and a great chance to cash in.

The side sits in 11th spot on the NRL ladder, just two points behind the four teams running fifth through eighth.

While a poor differential and the draw will ensure they can’t push all the way to fifth with a win, they can in fact enter the finals zone if victorious.

Josh McCrone returns at halfback for this match, with Marc Herbert making way, while winger Daniel Vidot also returns at the expense of two-try debutant Drury Low. Joe Picker has been added to a five-man bench.

The Storm have basically left their side as it was from the heavy defeat against Brisbane, with Adam Blair due to start for Kevin Proctor and Sika Manu added to an extended bench.

Hooker and captain Cameron Smith is still missing injured.

Watch out Raiders:
In what by now should come as no surprise, the opposition will be sending up the cross-field bombs due to a dismal Raiders’ de-fuse rate. The home-side Raiders are successfully taking care of just 30 per cent of cross-field kicks, making them susceptible to countless raids.

Whether it is because they have a second-rower-cum-centre or inexperienced wingers, the Canberra boys just cannot seem to get a handle on the ball coming across-field and are giving up repeat sets and points way too often.

Cooper Cronk has an uncanny ability to land the ball on a dime when playing well, and this could be enough to send the Raiders packing.

Watch out Storm:
He has been singled out a few times in recent weeks but after his debut for Country Origin, Canberra fullback Josh Dugan is someone the Storm must contain.

Dugan knows he is an outside chance to play Origin football this season – and what better place to impress than in front of the current New South Wales coach?

The youngster is running for 157 metres a match – a huge effort – and has six line-breaks so far for the year including two from kick returns. His 65 tackle breaks show just how elusive he is and with more and more confidence he can only get better.

The Storm faces a dilemma other teams face when playing them with Billy Slater in their no.1 jersey. Do you try to upset the fullback’s game and rhythm by forcing them into lots of work, or are you risking him tearing you apart with any ball you give him?

Where it will be won: This game will be won by right-side attack and conversely left-side defenders.

Both the Raiders and the Storm have a clear tendency to attack right, and there is not much to suggest that won’t continue.

The Raiders have scored 14 tries going right compared to just four going left, while Melbourne have 18 going right and 10 going left. This dominant side will once again get plenty of work; but what are the defenders like?

Canberra have leaked 13 tries on the right (left-side defenders), while the Storm have let in just one less with 12.

For the Storm, it is clearly the weaker defensive side, while the Raiders are actually poorer on the other side of the field when it comes to defence.

Each side needs to be able to combat the other’s strength when they shift the ball right, otherwise the points will just roll on and the game will be gone in the blink of an eye.

Also, watch for a 40/20 in this match to potentially be a turning point. Both sides love having a crack, with the Raiders getting two so far this season and the Storm three, which makes them the most prolific teams at the practice.

The history: Played 25; Raiders 6, Storm 19. Believe it or not the Raiders won the last time these two teams met, breaking a 14-game streak for the Storm. While this was monumental, season 2009 also provided the Storm’s biggest win over Canberra, a 46-6 shellacking in Melbourne.

At Canberra Stadium the ledger sits at seven wins for Melbourne and five for the Raiders.  

Conclusion:
The Raiders are a real chance of an upset here, but it is really hard to gauge just how Melbourne may or may not turn up each week.

Some say they will play hard, at least through Origin, but isn’t it possible those players certain of a spot in rep footy could be conserving energy and trying to avoid injury?

Others believe last week was the turning point and the team will just go through the motions… possible but unlikely with Bellamy at the helm. Others say last week was an anomaly and it will be rectified in Canberra… guess only time will tell.

Melbourne on paper – Raiders if you need an upset result.

Match officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Chris James; Sideline Officials – Ricky McFarlane & Henry Perenara; Video Ref – Phil Cooley.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live Viewer’s Choice 7.30pm, delayed 9.30pm.