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Sea Eagles v Raiders
Brookvale Oval
Saturday 7.30pm 

Don’t expect these sides to leave anything in the tank on Saturday night – their next clash is a fortnight away and they’re desperate for two competition points. Following a last-start draw and a loss respectively, the Sea Eagles and Raiders will be doing all they can to secure victory before they seek some R&R during next week’s bye.

Fourth-placed Manly have begun 2013 in fine fashion, beating the Broncos, Knights, Tigers, Bulldogs, Sharks and Dragons in the opening eight rounds. Their past two performances, spirited efforts against the Roosters (a hard-fought 16-4 loss) and Storm (a courageous 10-all draw), indicate there’s still some work for Geoff Toovey’s men to complete, though. A loss here against the Raiders, and they could slip out of the top four.

Canberra, meanwhile, sit in ninth position on the NRL ladder following last week’s loss to Cronulla at Sharks Stadium. The Raiders began 2013 slowly with back-to-back losses to kick-off the season, but have since won against the Dragons, Roosters, Warriors, Storm and Knights – a victory here would secure another giant feather in their cap as well as consolidate on their promising form in recent weeks which has seem them drop just two matches since Round 5, away losses against the Cowboys (30-12) and Sharks (30-20).

Despite the huge physical effort from their clash with the Storm, coach Toovey has shown great faith in the resilience of his team, naming the same personnel to take on the Raiders. Brett Stewart looks likely to return from his back injury in Round 13.

The Raiders welcome back Joel Thompson to their team, with the back-rower replacing Joel Edwards who will miss a week with a hamstring injury. Shaun Berrigan replaces Matt McIlwrick at hooker, with Glen Buttriss still battling a calf injury, while Sam Williams has been named on an extended bench as cover in case Josh McCrone’s hip injury hampers him in the lead-up to Saturday. Jarrad Kennedy and Jake Foster have also been named on that bench.

Watch Out Sea Eagles: A scoring drought across the past two matches has got to be a worrying sign for coach Toovey. Last week against the Storm they scored just one try – to Jamie Lyon from a spilt cross-field kick – and the week before it was a similar story with the lone four-pointer to Steve Matai also coming from the boot. 

Is the Sea Eagles’ attack getting stale… or is the team just desperately missing the impact of injured fullback Brett Stewart?

Watch Out Raiders: What separates the dangerous and electric Canberra side from becoming one of the most threatening teams in the competition? Defence – it’s as simple as that. 

The Raiders concede 24.5 points per game (13th), 4.2 tries per game (13th) and 5.2 line-breaks per game (15th). It’s simply not good enough. If they throw up numbers like that against a hungry Sea Eagles side playing in front of their vocal home crowd, annihilation could await. 

Plays To Watch: Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans utilising cross-field chips and bombs directed at their centres and wingers – it’s proven their only attacking success story in recent weeks; ultra-physical Raiders back-rower Josh Papalii getting in the face of the Sea Eagles’ pack, particularly Anthony Watmough, and Manly’s kickers – it’s ‘Papa’s’ last opportunity to press his case for Queensland selection; five-eighths Kieran Foran and Terry Campese playing short and long balls to their enigmatic and elusive outside men, looking to free up the likes of Taufua, Lyon, Ferguson and Lee as early as possible (they have five try assists each so far this season); Canberra interchange utility Anthony Milford searching for action as soon as he comes onto the field – he almost led a stunning Raiders comeback against the Sharks, scoring two tries, setting up another and breaking the defensive line twice.

Key Match-Up: One’s a former Blue and the other is a wannabe one. Unfortunately they won’t clash head to head because they’re both right-side experts, but centres Jamie Lyon and Blake Ferguson could make or break their team’s chances here. 

Both brilliant ball-running centre-three-quarters, Lyon and Ferguson could rip this game – and their opponents – apart with one run. One high-speed effort could prove the difference. Both Lyon (four tries, 16 tackle-breaks, three line-break assists and three try assists) and Ferguson (seven tries, five line-breaks and two try assists) have been deadly at times this year. Their opposition centres Jack Wighton and Steve Matai have big roles to play.

Where It Will Be Won: In big games it’s the simple plays that matter the most. The total number of errors from each side will either propel them to success or cripple their chances. Both sides are relatively undisciplined compared with other teams in the NRL – the Sea Eagles commit 11.4 errors per match (12th) while the Raiders are only slightly better with 11.1 per match (11th). The winning team will register the lower number this Saturday night.

The History: Played 44; Manly 26, Canberra 17, drawn 1. At Brookvale Oval, the Sea Eagles hold an advantage – but perhaps not as significant as some might expect – victorious in 14 of their 23 clashes.

Match Officials: Referees – Gavin Badger & Alan Shortall; Touch Judges – Dan Eastwood & Brenden Wood; Video Referees – Steve Chiddy & Matt Rodwell.

NRL Live 2013 App: Gives you access to every NRL game this season on your iPhone or Android smartphone as it’s being broadcast on TV, with up to six live games each week including the Sea Eagles v Raiders clash. Plus latest live scores, breaking news, comprehensive match highlights and full match replays.

Download the NRL Live 2013 App and watch every NRL match on your Smart Phone. Download now for iPhone or Andriod

Televised: Live – Fox Sports 1 (Viewer’s Choice).

The Way We See It: The Sea Eagles should have too much muscle and might for the weakened Raiders in this one. Last year’s preliminary finalists have too much strike-power and experience for the wounded Raiders missing Glen Buttriss, Jarrod Croker, Joel Edwards and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, and with several other Canberra stars in doubt. This could be a close one, though – especially if Campese and Ferguson fire. Manly by six points on the back of Fortress Brooky.

*Statistics: NRL Stats

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