Tigers v Raiders
After a horror run of seven straight losses, the Tigers recovered to a degree with narrow wins over the Cowboys (22-20) and Panthers (20-18) on either side of a Round 11 bye. But they slipped back into mediocrity with a poor performance against the Broncos last Monday night.
The Tigers actually led 6-0, but the Broncos, who are having their own issues this season, quickly gathered them in and assumed control, which they never lost from that point. It ended up 32-12 to the home side, with the Tigers paying for an awful defensive performance.
Too many times, the Tigers simply fell off the tackle after the Broncos player had virtually been stopped, and Benji Marshall was the worst offender in this regard. Marshall missed a whopping nine tackles and looked like he was way short on confidence.
The Raiders have won their past two games, both at home against the Broncos (30-18) and Panthers (24-12), but they really should be winning games like that if they want to be considered serious contenders.
The thing is, the Raiders haven’t been able to win more than two in a row at any stage this season. They need to show they can get on a roll – and win away from home. The Raiders have won all six of their home games, but have lost six of seven away.
This week, the Tigers have switched Joel Reddy from wing to centre, and Tim Simona from centre to wing, although it wouldn’t surprise to see them interchange. Sauaso Sue rises from the bench to replace injured lock Braith Anasta, and Jack Buchanan is up from the bench as well, to replace NSW prop Aaron Woods. Shaun Spence and Bodene Thompson are the new bench players.
For the Raiders, Jack Wighton moves from wing to centre to replace the suspended Blake Ferguson, with Sami Sauiluma the new winger. Joel Edwards rises from the bench to replace second-rower Josh Papalii, who is in the Queensland team. Jarrad Kennedy is the new bench player.
Watch Out Tigers: Ferguson might be out of the picture for the Raiders for the time being at least, but all that means is Wighton gets moved closer to the action. This kid is a potential superstar. In his past eight games he has run for over 100 metres in five of them, including a 174 and a 177, and in the other three he has racked up 87, 90 and 96. Plus, during that period he has made three line-breaks and scored four tries. Danger is his middle name.
Watch Out Raiders: The Tigers have got a couple of promising young players in the three-quarter line as well, who have come along strongly in recent weeks. Centre/winger Tim Simona had a breakout game against the Panthers two rounds back, running for 181 metres and scoring a long-distance try that ultimately won the game. Winger David Nofoaluma has made four line-breaks and scored three tries in four games, running for over 100 metres in three of them and 90 in the other.
Plays To Watch: The Raiders are bound to run a hell of a lot of traffic at Marshall. The superstar Tigers five-eighth is clearly in the doldrums with his game and his confidence would have taken a battering from the heap of missed tackles he made in the loss to the Broncos. He tried to make grabbing tackles and fell off them, and the Raiders’ eyes would have lit up in their video session.
The Curtis Sironen offload is still under development, but it’s very handy when he times it right. The Tigers’ halfback has 10 offloads in his eight games this season, and because he draws multiple defenders due to his size, and has the strength to hold them off while he tries to get a pass away, he can put a teammate into the clear.
Key Match-Up: How about the clash of the ex-Storm props? Brett White is in a groove of good form for the Raiders. He made 13 runs for 100 metres in the win over the Broncos, playing 39 minutes, and 14 runs for 141 metres against the Panthers, in 38 minutes. Plus, he had one offload in each game. That’s exactly what the Raiders are looking for from him – quality go-forward, with the chance of some second-phase play being created under the right circumstances.
One of the main criticisms of Adam Blair this season is his lack of metres. He has run for 100 metres or more in just one of his 13 games.
Where It Will Be Won: The Tigers will know that if they are as soft in defence as they were at times against the Broncos, they can forget about this one – even at home. They need to tighten up against a side that includes dangerous attackers like Wighton, Reece Robinson and Josh McCrone, and a high-quality playmaker in Terry Campese. If they commit in defence, the Tigers are certainly capable of winning.
The History: Played 25; Tigers 15, Raiders 10. The Tigers have won eight of the past 10 clashes, including three of the past four at home.
Match Officials: Referees – Adam Devcich & Alan Shortall; Sideline Officials – Ricky McFarlane & Dave Ryan; Video Referees – Luke Phillips & 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 Tigers v Raiders clash. Plus latest live scores, breaking news, comprehensive match highlights and full match replays.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7.30pm.
The Way We See It: The edge has been taken off the Raiders a bit, with Ferguson, Edrick Lee and Papalii all out, but they are still a very dangerous side. The Tigers looked like they lacked self-belief against the Broncos, and now they have to deal with a five-day turnaround. They are likely to lift, but the Raiders have a genuine opportunity to improve their below-par road form with a win here. Raiders by six points.
*Statistics: NRL Stats.