Schick Hydro Preview: Canberra Raiders v Wests Tigers
After starting the season with back-to-back wins, both the Raiders and Tigers looked like genuine top-eight contenders a fortnight into the season.
But it's been lean pickings since, with the sides combining for just one win and a draw between them in the five weeks since.
Canberra are coming off a 40-16 hiding at the hands of the Sharks, while the Tigers went down in golden point to the Storm to register their fifth successive defeat.
These two sides have had some classic battles over the years – think their 2010 elimination final thriller – but it's their meetings a decade ago that really stand out.
Both of those 2006 games were decided in extra time, with the Raiders getting the points on each occasion. A Clinton Schifcofske penalty goal proved the difference when the sides met in Canberra, while a 40-metre bullet from Todd Carney sealed the deal just 28 days layer at Campbelltown.
Incredibly, both of those matches were locked at 12-12 at half-time, with the Tigers going down 20-18 and 19-18 (the same score as their defeat last week).
The Raiders have named the same 17 that went down to the Sharks in Round 7, but have added Clay Priest, Jarrad Kennedy and Mitch Barnett to an extended bench, while Sauaso Sue has been named at lock for the Tigers after missing last week's game with concussion-related symptoms.
Watch out Raiders: GIO Stadium might be a fortress for the Raiders against most teams, but it holds no fears for the Tigers who have won six of the past seven meetings at the venue. Four of those were by 13 or more points, including 37- and 40-point victories in 2011 and 2012. The Green Machine have dropped their past two home matches in 2016, so this looms as a real danger game for the seventh-placed Raiders.
Watch out Tigers: Jordan Rapana was the shining light in a badly beaten team last week, running for a season-high 173 metres, scoring a terrific try and setting up another. He's had four line breaks in his past two matches and has seven for the season, only bettered by Brisbane's Corey Oates (nine). The speedy winger grabbed a crucial try in his side's 30-22 win at Leichhardt Oval last year and will be keen to repeat the dose this weekend.
Key match-up: Jarrod Croker v Kevin Naiqama. In what should be a fairly high-scoring affair, expect both strike centres to feature prominently in attack. Jarrod Croker scored in both games against the Tigers last year, and with David Furner's club points-scoring record in sight, will be keen to make an impact on Saturday night. Kevin Naiqama has been in career-best form in 2016, scoring five tries and setting up three. His combination with James Tedesco on the right edge has been a thing of beauty and should prosper on a dry track in Canberra.
The history: Played 30; Raiders 12; Tigers 18. The Raiders might have won two of the past three contests, but the Tigers have won 11 of the past 14 matches since 2009. The ledger was split last year with both teams coming from behind to win on the road. Three of the past five games between these two have involved field goals, while the Raiders have scored exactly 12 points in the first half of their last four games against the Tigers.
What are the odds: Sportsbet has received twice the money for a Wests Tigers upset in the head to head market, but there's even more money on a Tigers little win (1-12). Tigers fullback James Tedesco has been the most popular in first tryscorer markets and has also been the best supported in the win-try combo for him to score a try and for his side to win the game. Latest odds at Sportsbet http://www.sportsbet.com.au/betting/rugby-league/
Match officials: Referee: Henry Perenara. Assistant referee: Dave Munro. Sideline officials: Rohan Best and Brett Suttor.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live coverage from 5pm.
The way we see it: Given their recent records, neither team is screaming out 'pick me'. That said, the Tigers have shown enough in recent weeks to suggest they are improving, so we're ever so slightly leaning in their favour. With golden point the topic of conversation this week, who's to say we won't have another extra-time thriller on Saturday? Tigers by 1.