It's desperation stakes with both Canberra and St George Illawarra badly needing a win to stay in the dogfight for a spot in the finals.
And the Dragons' cause hasn't been helped at all with the loss of skipper and halfback Ben Hunt (broken arm) for a month.
Both teams slumped to morale-sapping defeats in round 20, the sluggish Raiders having their three-game losing streak snapped in a 34-24 loss to finals rivals Newcastle while an undermanned Dragons squad was thumped 50-14 by Souths for their third heavy loss in succession.
Canberra, crucially, have the positive reinforcement of their recent win streak to lean on but the Dragons must rely on the boost derived from key players returning after serving COVID breach bans.
It couldn't be closer on the table, the two teams equal both on points and differential with the Raiders given the nod for eighth spot based on their having scored more points so far this season - 383 to 382.
Both teams also have a tough run into the finals with Canberra facing Melbourne, Manly and the Roosters in their last four games while the Dragons have the Panthers, Roosters and return date with the Rabbitohs.
Given the circumstances getting the two points here could be season-defining.
Match: Raiders v Dragons
Round 21 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Raiders: Ricky Stuart's team will start 1-17 with Sia Soliola the 18th man.
Ryan Sutton returns from a chest injury at lock so Hudson Young shifts to the second row and Corey Harawira-Naera moves to the bench.
Dunamis Lui and Siliva Havili were the first two players cut from the squad 24 hours before kick-off.
The Raiders have won three of their past four games against the Dragons.
Dragons: St George Illawarra will start 1-17, with Matt Dufty the 18th man.
Cody Ramsey (wrist) will play after missing last week's loss to the Rabbitohs.
Corey Norman shifts from centre to five-eighth and Jayden Sullivan drops to the reserves to allow for Ramsey and Zac Lomax to form the new centre pairing.
Sullivan and Daniel Alvaro were the first two players cut from the extended squad on Thursday.
The Dragons have conceded 114 points in three losses since their bye in round 17.
Fullback for Raiders is number 1 Jordan RapanaFullback for Dragons is number 1 Jack Bird
Winger for Raiders is number 2 Harley Smith-ShieldsWinger for Dragons is number 2 Mathew Feagai
Centre for Raiders is number 3 Jarrod CrokerCentre for Dragons is number 3 Cody Ramsey
Centre for Raiders is number 4 Matthew TimokoCentre for Dragons is number 4 Zac Lomax
Winger for Raiders is number 5 Semi ValemeiWinger for Dragons is number 5 Mikaele Ravalawa
Five-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Jack WightonFive-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Corey Norman
Halfback for Raiders is number 7 Sam WilliamsHalfback for Dragons is number 7 Adam Clune
Prop for Raiders is number 8 Josh PapaliiProp for Dragons is number 8 Blake Lawrie
Hooker for Raiders is number 9 Josh HodgsonHooker for Dragons is number 9 Andrew McCullough
Prop for Raiders is number 10 Joseph TapineProp for Dragons is number 10 Josh McGuire
2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 Hudson Young2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Billy Burns
2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Elliott Whitehead2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tariq Sims
Lock for Raiders is number 13 Ryan SuttonLock for Dragons is number 13 Jack De Belin
Interchange for Raiders is number 14 Tom StarlingInterchange for Dragons is number 14 Talatau Amone
Interchange for Raiders is number 15 Corey Harawira-NaeraInterchange for Dragons is number 15 Jackson Ford
Interchange for Raiders is number 16 Emre GulerInterchange for Dragons is number 16 Jaiyden Hunt
Interchange for Raiders is number 17 Elijah AndersonInterchange for Dragons is number 17 Kaide Ellis
Reserve for Raiders is number 18 Iosia SoliolaReserve for Dragons is number 18 Matthew Dufty
- Referee: Chris Sutton
- Touch Judge: Drew Oultram
- Touch Judge: Belinda Sharpe
- Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy
Adam Clune v Sam Williams: Adam Clune needs to adequately fill the void left by Hunt and his kicking game. The departure of George Williams opened the door for Sam to take the No.7 jersey. He needs to control proceedings and keep his side in control of both their play, and their emotions. If the Dragons are to make the finals, Corey Norman and Jayden Sullivan need to give their teammates good field position and decisive ends to sets.
There’s something about the Green Machine which throws a spanner in St George Illawarra’s works - in the past 20 years they have played 27 times with the Dragons victorious on just six occasions.
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