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Raiders v Titans: Hosts unchanged; Matthews out, King to start

It's been a tough year for Ricky Stuart and the Raiders. Things could've been so different if they hadn't blown match-winning leads in their first three games.

The Green Machine might've been thinking it was time for an overhaul if they hadn't stopped the rot with last week's gutsy road win over the Cowboys – their first in Townsville in several years.

Canberra fans were crossing their fingers that things were looking up with the back to back wins over Parramatta and Canterbury in rounds five and six. They probably feared those performances were just fool's gold after the round seven thrashing from Souths, but the Raiders showed they can't be counted out of finals contention yet.

Titans coach Garth Brennan shook up his halves combination last week by dropping five-eighth Kane Elgey and his team responded with a committed effort against the Sharks. But the scoreboard showed a one-point loss at full-time, leaving them with a 3-5 record for the season.

The Titans stormed home to snatch a last-minute victory over the Raiders in round one and might fancy their chances in Saturday's re-match.

Raiders v Titans - Round 9

Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans, 3pm Saturday at GIO Stadium

For the Raiders to win: After an impressive road win over the Cowboys, the Raiders need to prove it was no flash in the pan. They had the Titans' measure for about 65 minutes in round one and ended up losing, so Stuart will demand they emulate last week's 80-minute effort.

For the Titans to win: It'll be interesting to see how the Titans bounce back from last week's close-but-no-cigar loss. The Gold Coast forwards will have to pack the heavy artillery, while Ash Taylor needs to provide solid direction from start to finish.

Raiders stat attack: The Raiders have scored 100 points in their previous three clashes with the Titans. Captain Jarrod Croker needs four points to reach 900 for his career at GIO Stadium.

Titans stat attack: The Titans don't seem to fear the trip to Canberra, winning four of their past five games at GIO Stadium. Forward Will Matthews will chalk up his 100th NRL game.

And another thing: This is a huge game for both teams. They share the same 3-5 record, though the Raiders boast a superior for and against differential. In light of the logjam of teams around mid-table, the Raiders or Titans could be in the top eight by the time the dust settles on round nine.

Raiders: 1 Jack Wighton, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Jarrod Croker (c), 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Blake Austin, 7 Aidan Sezer, 8 Iosia Soliola, 9 Siliva Havili, 10 Junior Paulo, 11 Joseph Tapine, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Josh Papalii

Interchange: 14 Ata Hingano, 15 Shannon Boyd, 16 Luke Bateman, 17 Dunamis Lui

The Raiders are 1-17 and unchanged from last week's win over the Cowboys. Brad Abbey and Jack Murchie were cut from the initial 21-man squad on Friday afternoon, while Liam Knight and Michael Oldfield were omitted an hour before kick-off.

Titans: 1 Michael Gordon, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Brendan Elliot, 4 Konrad Hurrell, 5 Phillip Sami, 6 Bryce Cartwright, 7 Ashley Taylor, 8 Jarrod Wallace, 9 Mitch Rein, 14 Max King, 11 Kevin Proctor, 10 Ryan James (c), 13 Jai Arrow

Interchange: 15 Jack Stockwell, 16 Keegan Hipgrave, 17 Ryan Simpkins, 19 Moeaki Fotuaika

The Titans have had a slight shake-up, with captain Ryan James shifting to the back row in place of Will Matthews (concussion), who was due to play his 100th NRL game. Max King is the new starting prop, while Moeaki Fotuaika was added to the interchange bench. Leilani Latu and Brenko Lee were cut from the squad an hour before kick-off and Kane Elgey was omitted on Friday afternoon.

Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans, 3pm Saturday at GIO Stadium

Head-to-head: Played 21; Titans 12 wins, Raiders 9 wins
Matches at venue: Played 9; Raiders 5 wins, Titans 4 wins
2017 result: Raiders won 42-16 at Cbus Super Stadium in round 6
Points per game: Raiders 21.9; Titans 17.4
Points conceded per game: Raiders 21.8; Titans 25.9
Televised: Live on Fox League

Steve Turner's prediction: It will be the second time these two sides meet in 2018 following the comeback win from the Titans in the opening round of the season after trailing the Raiders 24-6 at one stage. The Raiders return home after a great win in Townsville that was built on defence, while it's hard to get a read on the Titans who have the worse defensive record in the NRL and lack real strike out wide. It's an important game for both teams due to the congestion of the ladder, but Canberra will be too good. TIP: Raiders by 10.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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