Raiders issue warning to Panthers
Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson has challenged the Panthers to kill off Canberra's finals charge while they can or risk being run down by a rampant Green Machine with September on their minds.
Penrith's trip to Canberra on Sunday afternoon has the potential to be the game of the round and will have significant ramifications on the final make-up of the top eight.
The Panthers are riding the wave of a six-game winning streak while the Raiders have won their past three games on the trot but must win all three of their remaining games to be any hope if figuring in finals calculations.
Hodgson believes the Raiders have found the right balance in their attack and a new-found composure to launch a late-season charge and says the Panthers need to knock them over or start looking over their shoulder.
"We're at the point where it's probably do or die so we know every game is very important to us and it's going to be a big one if we do lose it," Hodgson said.
"We've really got that win-or-die mentality and we know we have to put our best foot forward each week and I'm sure Penrith are coming down here with that attitude as well.
"If they lose this game to us it's probably going to be a tough run home for them as well because we're going to be chasing their tail."
A finals series without the Raiders seemed ridiculous when the season kicked off five months ago but there is a growing sense of belief in the nation's capital that they have not left their run too late.
Halves Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin seemed to have revelled in the desperate nature of the team's position and are using the stinging criticism from earlier in the year to spark their past month, including their golden point win over the Dragons.
"We need to win. It's non-negotiable," said Sezer.
"We need to win to keep our season alive and we feel like we're playing a bit of positive footy off the back of it.
"It was tough going earlier in the year and it galvanised us a bit. We've come out the other side now and hopefully we can keep wining and keep our hopes alive.
"They've won six in a row now so we'll be coming up against a team that is high on confidence and on the back of a lot of momentum. They've got some quality players so we'll have our work cut out for us.
"We've got a couple of wins now and confidence is building within the group and it will be good to get back home against a quality outfit in the Panthers."
One of the many close losses that could yet come back to haunt Canberra was their Round 14 clash with the Panthers in Bathurst where Penrith scored twice in the final 90 seconds to snatch a 24-20 win.
"It was a weird game up there," said Hodgson. "We definitely didn't play our best but we felt we were in control of the game at the back-end and then two quick tries snuck the game away from us.
"That can happen sometimes if you don't do what you say you're going to do before the game.
"That's a fair few weeks away now and we've come a long way these past few weeks.
"We've still got a long way to go but I thought on the weekend there were some really positive signs.
"We didn't have a lot of ball for that first part of the second half and I thought we defended our line really well against a very physical Warriors team.
"It's been a good couple of weeks for us. We've started completing well and looking pretty composed the last few weeks which is what you need at this time of year, especially this week against Penrith.
"They can be a very difficult team to handle sometimes, especially when they're throwing the ball around."