Well! Here we are, fresh off an inspirational performance from the Green Machine, easily the best effort of the squad so far this year. The win takes the Raiders to 3rd on the ladder, but there is no time to stop and reflect as a real form team looms this coming Saturday.
The Parramatta Eels have had a respectable start to 2016, their only losses being to title favourites the Broncos in round 1 (sans Foran) and a shock last second loss to the Panthers. While they may sit down in 8th they do have one of the form defences of the competition, having conceded just 59 points. If the Raiders are to notch back to back wins they’ll need to be adventurous but also surgical in attack.
One of the most promising aspects of the round 5 win was the big improvement in the Raiders defence, which will once again be key as Foran and Norman start probing for gaps in the line or looking for kicking space in the back field. If the Raiders can hold up their end against an Eels pack almost as tough as the Dogs they’ll go a long way to freeing up space for Hodgson, Austin and Sezer to operate in.
One of the most heart-warming things about Mondays effort was how every single Raider contributed – Rapana’s feisty running out of the end zone, Leilua’s running battle with Morris, Wighton and Lee’s safe kick returns and Croker’s huge haul of points. At the front Vaughan, Boyd, FPN, Fensom, Tapine and Papali all going hard. In the middle Hodgson, Austin and Sezer, the two latter performing well on return from injury.
And a salute for Sia Soliola, who we will dearly miss for several rounds.
Battle of the Big Boppers
Soliola’s broken arm means an increased workload for his young charges, although judging by last night’s effort they are more than ready. Vaughan and Papali were both integral to the opening try, Boyd spent most of his time running hard, tiring defenders and generally aggravating Klemmer. Frank-Paul Nuuausala had a solid night of hit-ups and Fensom was his usual tackling machine self.
They face a formidable Eels pack – Wicks, M’au and future Raider Paulo all smashed out 100+ metres against the Panthers while the likes of Terepo and Edwards proved to be a handful for defenders. They may not be the most star studded pack in the comp but they sure are one of the hardest working.
Your cue, Maestro
Foran and Norman have proved to be a very adept combination and their battle against Sezer and Austin should be an enthralling one. Sezer demonstrated some very cool and well thought out kicking against the Dogs, alternating between space finders in field and clock stoppers at the sideline. As Dan pointed out Austin’s stepping was somewhat hampered in the wet, but if Pirtek stays dry expect him to start poking the moment he senses any gaps showing. As per usual Hodgson must be included for the sake of essentially being our third half, his grubber for Wighton showing that he is truly a thinking man’s rake.
Ricky was proud of his victorious 17, although he’ll need to do some tinkering now that Sia is sidelined for an extended period. His faith in an early return for Austin and Sezer paid good dividends, as has his patience for BJ Leilua who played arguably his best game for the Raiders so far. Brad Arthur would have no doubt been pained by his squads narrow loss, but overall seems to be doing a fine job of shaping the new look Eels into a comprehensive playing unit.
Lucky Numbers Player Bingo
#4 BJ Leilua #2 Semi Radradra
#7 Aidan Sezer #6 Corey Norman
#9 Josh Hodgson #7 Keiran Foran
#16 Paul Vaughan #8 Junior Paulo
Last week I wrote that the Dogs were the toughest task the Raiders had faced so far – It just got tougher. Both teams have toppled what was supposed to be a form competition leader by unleashing strong defence and physicality early on, and it will no doubt be an epic battle all across the pitch this Saturday.
Raiders by 2!
My awesome fiance and I are getting married soon, but before we do we have to sit through one more Raiders vs Eels clash – and we sit on either side of that fence. Whatever the outcome I am very excited to be such a lucky guy! Love ya punks!
I’m taking a break from the Rumble for a few weeks, so in the meantime Ben, Herman and Dan will all try their hand at it.
Ed note: All the best Rob. We’ll try not to break anything in the meantime.