I’m sitting here with a big slice of humble pie in front of me. It’s garnished with the berry sauce of surprise. Last week I ranted and raved about Ricky’s nutso forwards selections that had been plaguing the team week in, week out. Then, last week, Ricky finally managed get all the pieces of the puzzle in the right place. The Raiders clicked, and the Sharks faltered, ultimately failing to turn back the green tides.
Even the Vanilla Brothers, Priest and Bateman, managed to achieve a level of input acceptable in the NRL. The real news was the triumphant return of Papalii, along with Paulo’s barnstorming effort and Whiteheads blinder in his new role at lock.
It’s actually somewhat intriguing that it’s taken this long to place Whitehead at 13. He’s big, strong, has a good offload and can tackle for the full 80 – pretty much the ideal lock, and a much better option than exposing Hodgson to unnecessary risk in that spot.
Boyd also stepped up, and while he didn’t rack up the huge numbers like Paulo he was still very effective in his own way, mainly by staying upright after contact and forcing defenders to walk backwards while trying to drag him down. It’s a different tactic to Paulo, whose MO is to spin into defenders and essentially fall on them, trapping them and slowing their retreat as he gets to his feet.
Boyd’s impression of a giant redwood is something that he needs to own and hone, as it is the path the Raiders chose when they opted for him over Vaughan (Vaughan is an excellent stomach-first forward, who deliberately falls into tackles to initiate a quick play the ball, sacrificing after-contact metres).
If Boyd is a redwood then Tapine is a young oak not far behind. It is amazing to see a youngster with such powerful legs, who can quite easily stay standing with three defenders trying to pull him down. While he has definitely had some good performances at lock it looks as though his future may well be on the fringe ala Papalii.
But what of the Raiders forwards opponents? The Warriors pack barely edged out the Knights young engine room in their loss to the Novocastrians, and they’ll be keen to welcome back veteran Ryan Hoffman for this round. Even with that dose of starch to bolster them they’ll need to find new reserves of energy and determination, especially with the Raiders forwards now finding their groove.
In fact, if you’re thinking the Raiders are having a somewhat disappointing campaign in 2017 spare a thought for Warriors fans – their side boasts the starting spine for the New Zealand Rep side and they’re languishing in 12th, a far cry from where many thought they would be at the season’s start.
I could now bang on endlessly about the Raiders spine and all the good things it did against the Sharks (bar the awful kicking) but the point is that all of the Green Machines success hinges on the forwards ability to make inroads. Possession of territory and the speed in which it is acquired grants time and space for the playmakers, removing the pressure to make snap decisions and allowing attacking plays to unfold in a more organic way.
The Raiders need to carry last week’s determination in to each and every remaining game, not so they can make the finals but so they can check the video logs at the start of 2018.
Still in sudden death territory.
Raiders by rolling up the middle and showing the Warriors what’s what – 10 point margin!