Wests Tigers v Raiders Preview

Wests Tigers v Raiders
Leichhardt Oval
Sunday 3pm

Sunday afternoon football at Leichhardt Oval… it’s a rare occurrence these days but one that should be savoured.

The home-side Wests Tigers are in pretty good form and deserve a big turn-out for this match against a Raiders side getting close to desperation.

Sitting in third place on the NRL ladder thanks to a three-match winning sequence and a bye last week, the Tigers have a chance to cement a place in the top four here – but they also know a loss could have them slide all the way down to the edge of the finals zone.

If they are to be serious contenders, it is games like this, at home, where they should win and win well.

Since beating the Bulldogs two weeks ago the side is rested and is unaffected by Origin, giving them little excuse.

Wade McKinnon will play his first game at fullback since transferring from the Warriors, which sees Beau Ryan shift to the wing and Mitch Brown miss out.

Blake Ayshford comes back into the side in the centres, pushing Geoff Daniela to the bench. Daniel Fitzhenry and Keith Galloway have been added as extra bench men, with two to be culled before kick-off.

The Raiders must be kicking themselves after not beating the under-strength Cowboys last weekend in Townsville. The result has them back in 11th on the ladder and still two competition points outside the top eight.

The draw shapes up in a way that a loss here will have them four points off the finals zone, something they can ill-afford as we push further into the back half of the year.
A win will keep them on the pace and allow them the right to keep dreaming about the 2010 finals series.

They will be hoping their three Origin stars can back up, with Joel Monaghan, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and David Shillington all named. Shillington will be playing his 100th game.

Adam Mogg, Joe Picker and Scott Logan all move back to the bench which has seven named to provide potential cover.

Justin Carney is the only new name, with Danny Galea missing.

Watch out Wests Tigers: The Raiders have had most of their success in attack heading to the right side, where Joel Thompson is becoming quite a star. The Raiders have scored 21 tries on the right side of the park compared to just seven on the left, so it makes sense they will continue to focus here.

Thompson is averaging 95 metres and has 13 line-breaks in just 12 games. He also has eight tries and 53 tackle-breaks. If the Raiders are to get the result, Thompson needs to keep his form up.

Watch out Raiders: The Wests Tigers are primed to attack from distance, like they often do, but more so against the Raiders. The home side has scored 13 tries from over halfway in season 2010, the most of any side, and with the daytime forecast predicting a dry track the side will be sending the ball to the edges on numerous occasions.

Giving them more reason to do so is the fact the Raiders have conceded seven tries from over halfway – the fourth worst numbers in the NRL.

Where it will be won: 80-minute effort. The Raiders know better than most that one half of football isn’t enough to get the competition points. Earlier this season they led the Wests Tigers comfortably at halftime only to be run down.

Both teams have had issues with being at their peak for an entire match and need to lift in this regard. The Raiders really have issues in the last 20 minutes, where they have scored just 25 points all year and conceded 91. That’s an average 2.1 for and 7.6 against.

By comparison, the Wests Tigers hit their straps in the final 20 minutes, having scored 108 points and conceded 62. That’s an average 9 for and 5.2 against.

The Tigers’ weak part of the match is the second 20 minutes of the first half, where they average just 4.2 points and concede 7.3 points. Interestingly, the corresponding period is Canberra’s best part of each match.

The history: Played 19; Wests Tigers 10, Raiders 9. The Wests Tigers have won four of the past five between the clubs, including an incredible comeback win earlier this season. That made it three straight against the Raiders.

The two teams have only met twice at Leichhardt with the honours shared one apiece. Neither team has ever really blown apart the other, with the record margin of victory being 21 and 20 points respectively.

The Wests Tigers have won their past five games against interstate teams at Leichhardt.

Conclusion:
The home-side Wests Tigers should really get the job done here. They are hitting their straps, they are rested and relaxed and they have the firepower to trouble the Raiders. Plus, the Raiders have three players backing up.

Anything is possible and the Raiders are getting close to desperate, but stick with the black and golds.

Match officials: Referees – Jared Maxwell & Ashley Klein; Sideline Officials – Paul Holland & Grant Atkins; Video Ref – Sean Hampstead.

Televised: Channel Nine – Delayed 4pm; Fox Sports – Delayed 6pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats.