So here we are, at the end of the first half of the season in round 13. Round 12 saw the Green Machine notch a set of consecutive wins for the second time since winning their first two games of the season. While things were a little dire in the first half against the Dogs there was a rapid improvement in the second 40, and with that comes hope that the Raiders can roll that into an 80 minute effort against a struggling Manly side.
While the last two wins were through the efforts of the same 17 the squad will receive a shake up for Friday’s game, with both Fensom and Lee out due to injury while Lima has been dropped back to Mounties. Bateman assumes Fensom’s position at lock, while Lee is covered off by his cousin Brenko, with Lima’s demotion making way for a 5 man bench that includes mid-season transfer Junior Paulo.
Meanwhile Tapine has been named at prop which leaves me thinking that either Ricky needs to present himself for a concussion test or that he has finally snapped and fully drunk his own kool-aid.
The prevailing consensus is that Papali should be rested after Wednesday, with Priest returning to Mounties whilst Lima retains his spot.
Manly meanwhile are in the doldrums, languishing in 12th on the ladder, staying ahead of the Tigers and Warriors by way of differential. What is surprising is that the Raiders and Eagles are separated by only two wins (and that draw!)
The Raiders showed that they can play explosive and expansive football against the Dogs, and it’s a style that could come in very handy against Manly.
Battle of the Big Boppers
The Raiders forwards, were, to be honest, a little undercooked on Sunday – of all of them only Fensom, Bateman and Tapine could crack triple figures in the running game, while Whitehead and Soliola lead the tackle stats (Hodgson was second to Whitehead). Ricky appears to have set cat amongst the pigeons with Lima’s rather undeserved drop, with Boyd and Vaughan the two who need to contribute more this time out. Having said that they should be fine against a Manly pack that hasn’t really shown much gusto so far.
Your Cue, Maestro
The Raiders win against the Dogs came off what shall henceforth be known as the 5 man spine – the novel idea of having two hookers on the field at THE SAME TIME! What this meant was that the Raiders had the ability to have Austin and Sezer to either side, with Hodgson serving as an opportunistic half who could go where he saw fit. As a result Hodgson could himself run it to the line and then single out a forward with a nifty pass, or run it further still and cut back in on lazy defenders.
Austin had a bit more impact in the Dogs game, and his passing, especially in sweeping attack, does now seem to be pretty solid. His disallowed try was contentious to say the least. Still, he and Sezer have not yet left a lasting impression on the side, something we’ll discuss in our midyear report post round 13.
Put your Back(s) into it
I’ve added this section as it was the last missing piece of a Raiders Rumble puzzle – somewhere to discuss the Raiders backline, which in the space of 80 minutes can have equally shocking and brilliant moments. Wighton encapsulates this completely, his first half blunders the stuff of custodial nightmares, his second half play the aspiration of any #1. We’d like two 2nd halves please Jack.
Rapana and Leilua continue to be possibly the most electrifying duo in the comp; Leilua’s sheer power matched only by Rapana’s speed and willingness. The flick pass for the corner try was proper highlight reel material. Likewise on the opposing wing Croker and Lee have a proper partnership, with solid support on attacking raids.
The really impressive bit is defence – while the fringes are still being sucked in on occasion all four of these men now make committed tackles, especially Croker.
Merry-Go Round Men
Stick had a well deserved win, with lots of passionate yelling on the sideline, while Des did his usual post match I-look-like-a-crumbled-bag schtick.
Trent Barrett meanwhile is having to deal with the hangover of a golden period for Manly – Big names in both coaching and players are now gone, leaving him to build something new at Brookvale.
Can the Raiders make it three in a row? All the signs say yes, but they essentially need to keep the focus until they can play a proper 80 minutes of football. It only took them a few sets to submit to the Dogs in rd12, so they need to demonstrate that they can control the game not just in the 2nd half.
Raiders by 10!