They remain $51 long shots to lift the NRL trophy this season – better than only Newcastle and South Sydney of the 10 teams still in top eight contention – but Canberra great Laurie Daley believes the Raiders are the side everyone fears the most following their 32-16 demolition of heavyweights St George Illawarra on Sunday.<br><br>The Green Machine have now won six of their past seven matches to find themselves on the brink of a remarkable finals appearance after seemingly being out of contention just two months ago.<br><br>Should they take care of North Queensland as expected this weekend they still face a tough trip to Brisbane in the final round to secure a top-eight berth, but boasting the NRL’s biggest forward pack and the deadly duo of Josh Dugan and Terry Campese hitting top form, Daley told NRL.com today that they are the last side any of the competition favourites want to meet come finals time.<br><br>“They’re a team you wouldn’t want to play and if they win their next two games that is eight out of nine heading into the finals,” Daley said. “That’s good form to take into a finals series. <br><br>“They won’t fear anyone and if they happen to make it in eighth they probably take on the Dragons who they just beat.<br><br>“A lot of things can still happen between now and then and they can’t afford to get ahead of themselves but if they make the finals you could no longer say they were just there to make up the numbers.<br><br>“As I said, there are plenty of other sides you’d rather play.”<br><br>Canberra’s win on Sunday was particularly impressive given that the Dragons have prided themselves on a rock solid defence over the past two seasons and are easily the best defensive side in the competition in 2010 with just 257 points conceded at just 11.68 per game – well ahead of next best Melbourne (333 points) and Parramatta (441).<br><br>The 32 points the Raiders piled on after half-time was the most St George Illawarra have conceded in a half of football since going down 70-10 to Melbourne in 2000 and comprised more than 10 per cent of the points they have let in this year.<br><br>It also represents 20 per cent of the points the Dragons have conceded in their combined second halves in 2010.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=860&fixtureid=50020102406&videoquality=1&type=handlingerror&period=1&time=952" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see St George Illawarra's desperate goal-line defence to stop Daniel Vidot from scoring the the first half.</a><br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=860&fixtureid=50020102406&videoquality=1&type=try&period=2&time=1776" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see this defence fall apart, allowing Joe Picker to secure the win in the second half.</a><br><br>Daley said that while the Raiders have typically been inconsistent, the improved form of young halfback Josh McCrone had provided stability in their key positions that the club hasn’t enjoyed in recent times.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=855&fixtureid=50020101906&videoquality=1&type=try&period=1&time=682" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see McCrone throw a beautiful pass to send Vidot over against the Knights.</a><br><br>“It is taking a bit of pressure off Terry Campese and is allowing him to put his mark on games,” Daley said.<br><br>“They have never really settled on a combination there [in the halves] and being such a competitor, ‘Campo’ has probably tried to take on too much responsibility and do too much at times to the detriment of the team. <br><br>“But when everyone else is playing their role, with his ability, he is a very dominant player. <br><br>“He will win games for them.”<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=860&fixtureid=50020102406&videoquality=1&type=try&period=2&time=1114" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Campese at his brilliant best against the Dragons.</a><br><br>However, former Raiders lock Brad Clyde said that the key to the side’s current success was their monstrous forward pack – headed by giant props David Shillington, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Dane Tilse and Scott Logan.<br><br>In a performance that will certainly have rival packs looking over their collective shoulders, Canberra’s big men left the Dragons’ high profile forwards dazed and confused at the weekend making a massive 1658 metres to just 1046, with eight players topping 100 metres.<br><br>“They control that middle of the ruck and when they do that everything else seems to fall into place,” Clyde said. “The Dragons are one of the form teams of the competition and they were dominated by the Raiders, which is a good sign.<br><br>“They are a massive unit.<br><br>“They still have that problem of having given the front-running teams a big head start this year, but if they make the finals and are taking this form in I can tell you that it really makes a difference.<br><br>“If you can go into the finals knowing that you’re not just making up the numbers, it’s a very powerful feeling to have.”<br><br>Daley warned, though, against the side jumping too far ahead of themselves against North Queensland this weekend.<br><br>“Mentally, that’s the big test for them,” he said. “It was easy for them to get up to play the Dragons but now they’ve got to get up to play the Cowboys. <br><br>“Only a few weeks ago we saw the Roosters put a lot of energy into a performance and now they’ve lost their last two. <br><br>“It’s a mental challenge this week rather than a physical one and the thing to remember is that this Canberra side might still be inconsistent in the coming weeks. <br><br>“You look at their key position players and they’re all young so you’re going to get unexpected performances. <br><br>“None of them – McCrone, Travis Waddell and Josh Dugan – have played much more than 30-odd games – so they won’t always play up to expectation. <br><br>“But when they get things right on the paddock they perform extremely well together.”
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