Canberra Raiders v Wests Tigers
Monday, August 10, 7:00pm
It's do or die for the Canberra Raiders on Monday night as they host the Wests Tigers in a crucial encounter leading into finals footy.
Having received a triple blow of two injuries and a suspension in their last start loss to the Cowboys, the Raiders limp into this clash against a team that shocked the league with an impressive victory over the Melbourne Storm last week.
But Raiders fans have plenty to be confident about on Monday night.
Firstly because of how their team fared against the Tigers in Round 7, on a memorable afternoon in which the Green Machine notched up the biggest comeback victory in their club's history.
Secondly, their charges will celebrate game number 200 for classy prop David Shillington.
And thirdly because they're back at home playing in freezing-cold Canberra, having struggled for stamina in humid conditions in Townsville last Saturday.
Meanwhile the Tigers will also head into this one quietly confident.
They've defeated the Raiders seven times in their past 10 meetings, and three out of the past four times at GIO Stadium.
They'll also be celebrating a special milestone of their own, as Catalans-bound Pat Richards is set to become the first player to ever kick 1000 goals in first grade competition (including in the English Super League).
In team changes, Canberra have copped it left, right and centre with Sia Soliola and Josh Hodgson out injured and Edrick Lee suspended for tripping.
Luckily for them Sisa Waqa returns just in time from a knee injury to take Lee's place on the wing, while the experienced Glen Buttriss comes in at hooker and Jarrad Kennedy is promoted to Soliola's second-row position.
Back-rower Mitchell Barnett has been named to make his NRL debut off the bench having impressed for Mounties this year.
The 21-year-old won Canberra's under-20s player of the year award last year and was recently re-signed until the end of 2017.
For the Tigers, Brenden Santi comes onto a five-man bench, with the impressive youngster Manaia Cherrington named at 18th man.
Watch Out Raiders: He was once set to wear the green No.1 jersey but on Monday night James Tedesco will be arriving at GIO Stadium to torment the team he agreed to join last year. One of the form players in the competition at the moment, Tedesco has exhibited his outstanding ball-running skills in recent weeks to lead the competition in tackle breaks (135) and sit third in kick return metres (1039). His last outing was particularly brilliant for the Tigers, with the awkward running fullback producing two line breaks, two try assists and two tries in a brilliant all-round performance. The Raiders will have to be switched on to shut him down.
Watch Out Wests Tigers: Raiders No.1 Jack Wighton is starting to break out of his shell as well, with consistently improved performances at the back for the Green Machine. Wighton had a line break, two try assists and a strong try last week against the Cowboys and will be looking to back that big performance up on Monday night. He'll be hoping to finish off some attacking movements from one of the game's best attacks that boasts the highest percentage of quick play-the-balls, the second-highest completion rate and second most tries in the competition.
Key Match-Up: Blake Austin v Mitch Moses. What an interesting five-eighth match-up we'll see on Monday night, with one of the NRL's form players Austin coming up against the man who squeezed him out of the Tigers setup last year. Many punters have argued that the Tigers made a mistake in letting Austin go and sticking with Moses, but there's no doubt the slightly built Tigers No.6 has huge potential. With 19 games apiece so far this year, the Raiders pivot certainly has the attacking advantage over Moses this year. He has more tries (13 to 3), run metres per game (81 to 39) and line breaks (15 to 3). However Moses has the slight advantage in providing for others with more line-break assists (10 to 6) and try assists (8 to 7).
The History: Played 29; Raiders 12, Tigers 17. The last time these two met the Raiders completed the biggest comeback in club history to defeat the Tigers 30-22, having been down 22-nil after just 25 minutes.
What Are The Odds: Sportsbet punters have identified the Tigers as the value bet of the round. The money is running three to one in favour of Wests and their price has been consistently wound in by Sportsbet due to the weight of money. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match Officials: Referee: Jared Maxwell. Assistant Referee: Henry Perenara. Touch Judges: Belinda Sleeman, Peter Gough. Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Luke Phillips.
Televised: Fox Sports, Live, 7:00pm.
The Way We See It: The Raiders have everything to play for on Monday night, considering they will likely have to win four of their last five to have a chance at playing finals footy. But the Tigers should not be underestimated, as the Storm found out last week. The Raiders will need to shut down the brilliant attacking spine of the Tigers to earn victory in this one. If they do so, scoring points themselves shouldn't prove too difficult. We'll tip them to win by 10 points.