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In the world of small sample sizes, you would be forgiven for thinking the Melbourne Storm and the Canberra Raiders are on a collision course for a September showdown.

While there is a lot of football still to be played, both Storm and Raiders fans will be looking forward to Friday night's clash full of confidence.

Melbourne did what they always seemingly do in round one, win, dispatching of the Brisbane Broncos in their typically efficient manner.

Storm fullback Jahrome Hughes was outstanding and will be a man of focus for the Canberra defence, Kenny and Jesse Bromwich stood up for the Storm pack, while Felise Kaufusi was a handful with 160 metres from 14 runs and 33 tackles.

It sets up a mouth-watering battle in the middle after the Raiders successfully debuted their new-look pack in a 21-0 shut-out of the Titans.

Canberra's defence appeared to be much improved compared to last season, with the smaller pack and Jack Wighton now standing in the line plugging some of the gaps which came back to haunt Ricky Stuart's men last season.

The Raiders face a much sterner test against methodical Melbourne.

The Rundown

Team news

Raiders: Jordan Rapana is named to make a shock early return from injury. After Sam Williams and Jack Murchie were omitted from the 21-man squad on Thursday, JJ Collins and Bailey Simonsson were left out an hour before kick-off.

Storm: Marion Seve has been elevated from the reserves list to a spot on the bench, with Patrick Kaufusi joining Ryan Papenhuyzen as the two players to be left out an hour before kick-off. Billy Walters and Albert Vete were cut 24 hours before kick-off and will play for Easts Tigers.

Key match-up

The battle of the hookers and the impact they have on their respective teams is a tantalising one. Cameron Smith and Josh Hodgson on their day are arguably the best hookers in the Telstra Premiership and whoever can have the better performance will ensure their team is that much closer to staying undefeated this season.

For the Raiders to win

More of the same from last week - defence and line-speed. In horrible conditions the Raiders did what they had to do to defend their line, something which they seemed incapable of at times last season. The much-anticipated battle between the forwards was enthralling, and the big men in the middle and on the fringes for Canberra will again have a massive job ahead of them especially on a four-day turnaround. 

For the Storm to win

Halves Brodie Croft and Cameron Munster need to exert control on the game better than their less experienced opposite numbers in Aidan Sezer and Jack Wighton. Munster was at his dangerous best against the Broncos setting up a try and assisting in two line breaks.

Brett Kimmorley says ...

The Raiders have gone for a more mobile forward pack this year. Josh Papalii was wonderful for them last week. The battle of beating the Storm starts in the forwards and the Raiders need to win that. As for Melbourne, they played a different brand of football last week. Sometimes Cameron Smith was standing at halfback, it was really entertaining to watch. It will be interesting to see if they keep chancing their arm. Storm by 6

Raiders Stat Attack

Englishman John Bateman turned heads with an assertive debut in the Canberra pack. While Bateman led his side in tackles (36) and metres run (154), he also finished with 17 hit-ups and five tackle breaks in a wholehearted 80-minute effort.

Storm Stat Attack

In what came as a shock to absolutely no-one, Cameron Smith made a team-high 49 tackles in the win over Brisbane. The other 'Cam' - Cameron Munster - was also prominent with three tackle breaks, two line break assists, a try assist and 19 tackles. Munster's only blemish was five missed tackles.


Played 41, Melbourne 30, Canberra 11

At GIO Stadium

Played 20, Melbourne 13, Canberra 7

And another thing ...

Storm captain Cameron Smith and Raiders centre Jarrod Croker rank one and three among rugby league's highest point-scorers still active. Smith (2392 points) is second all time and should overtake Hazem El Masri by the Origin period, while Croker (1784) is 12th and should surpass Mick Cronin in seventh spot by the end of the season. James Maloney (1789) has his nose just in front of Croker.