Raiders v Knights Preview

Raiders v Knights
Canberra Stadium
Sunday 2pm

These two sides refuse to die in the race for semi-final spots but the loser of this match will certainly have another nail hammered into the coffin, particularly if it is the home side Raiders.

The Raiders breathed new life into the run home with a gutsy two-point win over Manly at Brookvale Oval, but they remain in 13th spot on the NRL ladder, with plenty of work to do.

The scenario still sits at six wins from eight games for the Green Machine; and with all due respect to the opposition, this home game and next week’s home game against the Sharks appear must-win if their miracle is going to materialise.

The side is still without boom centre Joel Thompson thanks to his dodgy groin but former Queensland winger Adam Mogg (who plays his 100th NRL match here) proved a capable replacement against the Sea Eagles.

Injury has also felled Shaun Fensom and Troy Thompson but Scott Logan is set to return to the fray on the bench along with Danny Galea and Sam Mataora.

With the positive news on Josh Dugan’s future during the week and the understanding Joel Thompson’s signature will follow, the Raiders have plenty to be upbeat about.

But they run into a dogged Knights side that, on the back of taking down Cronulla, have now won three on the trot and have finals designs of their own.

Newcastle refuse to buy into the top-eight talk but they have pushed up to 11th, just a win outside the finals zone. Another positive result here and it might be just differential keeping them out.

The Novocastrians are aiming at five wins from their final eight and have privately pencilled in this match and next week’s trip to Townsville, as must-wins before they hit tougher opposition.

They have remained loyal to their winning side, although Isaac De Gois has been named to start with Matt Hilder on the bench. (It would be no surprise though if the pair once again swapped roles come kick-off.)

So that leaves us with two sides, both expecting to beat the other, with everything to play for… bring it on!

Watch out Raiders:
Ben Rogers is finding some form in the five-eighth role for the Knights and word is he is keen to match himself up against Terry Campese to get a further gauge of his abilities.

Rogers outpointed New South Wales pivot Trent Barrett last weekend but knows the Sharks skipper was backing up from Origin. When he plays well, the Knights get much more value from Kurt Gidley and Jarrod Mullen; Gidley especially was outstanding against the Sharks.

Rogers has been erratic in the past, having up-and-down weeks, and this is his first trip back to Canberra since rearranging Daniel Vidot’s face in one of his numerous disciplinary brain snaps.

The trick for Rogers will be playing with controlled aggression as the Raiders are sure to throw him some bait.   

Watch out Knights:
The Raiders are killing the Knights in terms of metres gained this season and if this continues they will dominate field position and possibly the match.

Canberra averages 1387 running metres each week, a solid 119 metres more than the Knights at 1268. They also average 617 kicking metres thanks mainly to Campese’s monster boot, significantly higher than the 493 metres averaged by the Knights. Combining the two, the Raiders already average 243 more metres than the Knights and that should equate to numerous more attacking opportunities.

Not one Knights forward is averaging triple figures in running metres – a sad state of affairs – but the Raiders’ pack is also somewhat lame with just Test prop David Shillington at 114metres a match.

Both sides rely on their backs to do the majority of the work. Josh Dugan averages 164 metres, while Gidley returns 146 metres. Newcastle’s big men need to lift here.

Another worry for the Knights is the fact they have conceded the most tries from within thir 10-metre zone (36); again it falls to their big forwards, who need to muscle up.

Where it will be won: This game shapes as one with many momentum shifts and as such it will be the team that makes the most of their repeat sets and back-to-back efforts that will prevail.

Each club has lost games they should have won, due to lapses within games and an inability to quell another side’s momentum. So patience is needed.

Rather than trying to score off every set, they need to build pressure and gain repeat sets… then they need to make the most of them.

If a side can score back-to-back tries, they’ll have a significant edge, as this type of momentum has been a killer against either side all year. This puts plenty of pressure on Gidley and Campese and it could well be the better player of the pair that affects the result.

In seasons past, the addition of Mullen in the scenario would help the Knights, although his form hasn’t warranted much of a mention in 2010.  

The history: Played 32; Raiders 18, Knights 13, drawn 1. The Knights have won five of the past eight games between the two teams but the Raiders certainly have the edge at Canberra Stadium. The Knights have won just two from 16 at the venue and the last time was back in 2006 – although on that particular day they did win 70-32 in the highest-scoring match of all time.
 
Conclusion: The Knights are clearly on a roll but the Raiders threw a curve ball with last week’s away win and now will probably start favourite.

With both sides at desperation levels, trying to pick a winner is as easy as spotting a Kevin Rudd smile in recent weeks. One thing is for sure – this game should be highly entertaining and is worth getting out to.

Match officials: Referees – Jason Robinson & Ashley Klein; Sideline Officials – Steve Carrall & Luke Potter; Video Ref – Chris Ward.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm.