Canberra Raiders duo Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua.

No trust issues for 'Leipana'

Raiders centre Joey Leilua has quashed any suggestions he and wing partner Jordan Rapana have trust issues in defence.

Throughout the Raiders' 44-30 win over Manly last Saturday, the duo struggled to contain Sea Eagles fullback Tom Trbojevic who scored a hat-trick against Canberra's right-edge defence. 

Manly journeyman Frank Winterstein also battled his way past Rapana and Leilua to end an eight-year wait for his first ever try. 

And while Canberra's latest bromance combined for five tries at Brookvale Oval, it won't come as easy against in-form top eight hopefuls the Wests Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

Remarkably Leilua and Rapana have combined for 28 tries, 15 try assists, 236 tackle breaks and just under 6000 metres gained this season.  


With their finals spot assured, Leilua said the final round of the regular season presents a perfect opportunity for the duo to address their defensive issues alongside halfback Sam Williams – who played his first NRL game since Round 8 against Manly last week. 

"The thing that makes [Rapana and I] play so well is that we're tough on each other which makes us accountable when things go wrong between us," Leilua said.

"We have to trust each other, which is the main thing. When he knows I'm going to make my tackles, he knows who to cover on the outside, so the trust is there that we're going to get our jobs done.

"We need another week with Sammy too. It'll be good to get that cohesion going again with him, once we have that down pat it'll work well for us."

The Raiders were afforded a three-day break earlier in the week – the biggest they've had leading into a game this season – which Leilua believes negates the need to rest players this weekend.

Canberra are chasing a 10th consecutive win and could potentially finish in the top two on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder if Melbourne beat the Sharks for the minor premiership on Saturday night. 

"I don't think Sticky (Raiders coach Ricky Stuart) is too keen on leaving any players out but if he does, and it works best for the team, then I'll back his decision," Leilua said.

 

With the Tigers vying for a potential top eight spot, depending on whether the Gold Coast Titans win or lose to reigning premiers North Queensland on Saturday night, Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker believes Sunday's clash will have a "semi-finals feel" to it. 

It's an important factor considering Croker, Williams, Leilua, fullback Jack Wighton and back-rowers Josh Papalii and Sia Soliola are the only players in the Raiders' 17 to have experienced finals football in the NRL. 

"It's going to be a packed house at Leichhardt Oval and a game which will have a semi-finals feel about it because they're potentially playing for a top eight spot," Croker said.

"We want to continue that momentum we have been building. There's a few scenarios involved so we'll have to wait until Saturday night to see where we're at."

 

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