Schick Hydro Preview: Canberra Raiders v Wests Tigers
The Canberra Raiders and Wests Tigers will be desperate to turn things around in Round 3 after poor showings last weekend when they clash at GIO Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Not many would have predicted the Raiders to be 0-2 to start the season, albeit they've faced off against the premiers of the last two years. Such is the rollercoaster of the competition – one week a side can lose in golden point, to the following week where the opposition racks up 40 in your own backyard.
It was always going to be a tough start for the Raiders who also face the Broncos and Eels in coming weeks. Their loss to the Sharks was poor and they've struggled to make any inroads with their monster forward pack, currently sitting in 16th for metres gained and second behind the Tigers for the most errors in the Telstra Premiership.
Ultimately the Raiders have been starved of possession to open the season, averaging only 42 percent in the last two games against quality outfits and have struggled to build any momentum as a result.
The Tigers hit a hurdle against the Panthers on Sunday, and will only have to cast their minds back to Round 8 of last season to know that it will not get any easier against a Raiders side that put 60 on them in the nation's capital before piling on a further 52-12 loss in Round 26 to bundle the Tigers out of finals contention at Leichhardt Oval.
The 112-18 combined scoreline in 2016 contributed significantly to the Tigers having the second worst defence last season, just ahead of the Knights.
Raiders winger Jordan Rapana enjoys a try against the Tigers with seven from only four appearances, and has crossed the line ten times in the last 12 games in Canberra.
In a huge boost for the Raiders, skipper Jarrod Croker has been named to return following a dislocated patella suffered in the All Stars clash a month ago. His return allows for English international Elliott Whitehead to move back to his more favoured second row position.
Suspended forward Clay Priest also returns for Ricky Stuart's men on the interchange bench, while former Queensland forward Dave Taylor could play his first Telstra Premiership game in over a year after being named on the interchange bench.
For the Wests Tigers, Jamal Idris has a foot injury and was not named in the 21-man squad with Tim Grant to return following his late omission from the game against the Panthers due to illness. Veteran hooker Matt Ballin has again been named on the reserves list, along with back-rower Kyle Lovett who returns from suspension.
Why the Raiders can win: The players will be too desperate and with the return of Croker allowing Whitehead to move back into the second row, suddenly the line-up looks far from disjointed. Should the home side get a roll on for the first time this season and get an even spread of possession, their backs should be too strong out wide for the Tigers to handle.
Why the Wests Tigers can win: Their offloading capability in the opening two rounds can run the Raiders around the park, which as a result could tire the home side. The joint venture is currently ranked first in the competition with 35 offloads, which has created chances with second phase football. Despite not scoring a try against the Panthers, the Tigers blew multiple opportunities with costly errors over the line, and should the Raiders give them a sniff, their attack could be too much if they click into gear.
 Telstra Premiership: Josh Papalii vs Sauaso Sue
All Run Metres, Tackles, Offloads, Tackle Breaks.
The history: Played 32; Raiders 14; Wests Tigers 18. Similar to the Dragons and Sharks, GIO Stadium is a home away from home for the Tigers, who have won seven of their past ten clashes in Canberra and have beaten the Raiders in five of their last seven games on a Sunday at the venue. As mentioned earlier though, the Raiders were dominant in their two previous outings last season and delivered the Tigers their fourth worst defeat in club history back in April.
What are the odds: Sportsbet customers are expecting Canberra to hit back hard here, with the money running in their favour eight-to-one. Raiders 13+ is holding more money than all of the other winning margin options combined and there's not even a lot of love for Wests Tigers at the line. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Matt Cecchin; Assistant Referee: Alan Shortall; Touch judges: Kasey Badger and Jason Walsh; Review Officials: Luke Patten and Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live from 4:00pm; Fox League – Live from 4:00pm.
NRL.com predicts: Both sides were poor last week but we get the feeling the tide will turn for the Raiders, who will be in no mood to go 0-3 to start the season and have not lost three in a row since August 2015. The Tigers struggled to contain their big men last season, and we think the trend will continue on Sunday. Raiders by 13+.