Two rounds, two close losses. These are the kind of games that derailed the Raiders season in 2017, and so far it looks as though little has been done to rectify the various problems that the team suffers. While Hodgson is notable for the impact his absence has on attack, it doesn’t extend to the hapless attitude of the Raiders in defence, especially when defending on their try line.
The home game against the Knights featured some pretty turnstile like defending, with the Novocastrians finding it all too easy to single out smaller defenders, or to draw defenders out of position. On the position issue it is clearly stems from a matter of faith in one’s teammates to mark up correctly, and then make the right choice. Bad defenders beget poor choices either side of them, as better players are forced to make split second decisions about where they can be best placed to prevent a scoring play. Whatever is happening coaching wise in regards to defence doesn’t appear to be making it onto the field (or maybe it is!?)
Now the Raiders face another team finding its groove. The Warriors have been in the wilderness the last few seasons, but after some desultory campaigns they seem to have finally found their mojo, and are currently two from two. So far they have accounted for the hapless Bunnies and the Titans, notching 20 or more per game. Given that the Raiders currently seem unable to staunch the flow of points against them this does not look good.
At this point I would address the team list for the Raiders, but I’m tired and Ricky seems to be on one of his last minute guessing game routines.
The Raiders forwards had good stats against the Knights, and delivered quality impact even when they weren’t making huge metres. Boyd led the way, pummelling into the Knights line, while Paulo’s offload for Whiteheads try was very good.
If there is one good move Stuart has made it’s separating his two biggest units, meaning one will always be in play and hopefully tiring defenders. With Tapine still out Soliola slots in at prop, while Whitehead continues serving in the second row, waiting for that time he can return to lock.
The Warriors pack contains to veterans in the shape of Blair and Harris, and it will be these two that the Raiders will need to neutralise to prevent them from inspiring their younger charges.
A Mighty Fine Spine
The Raiders defence will need to be on high alert for Shaun Johnsons short kicking game, as well as his elusive step. Too many teams have fallen foul of these abilities, and the Raiders should already know how unpredictable his attacking plays can be.
Stuart has finally made the call to move Austin to the bench, and we can only pray that he’ll be taking up the role of hooker when he comes on. Hopefully this can give Sezer and Williams some more definition in terms of their roles as dual organisers, something that has been lost in the mix when all three have been on in previous weeks.
If average efforts continue from these three then surely Stuart must be forced to blood Garvey, who by all accounts had a tremendous game for Mounties in round 2.
You Can Do It (Put Your Backs Into It)
Hats off to Croker, who took another massive hit in defence for the second week running. While some may consider the Canberra captain a quiet leader there’s no arguing about his level of effort, even when it clearly won’t pay off. BJ has been tentatively named in the starting side, but will be assessed closer to match day to see if he is truly fit to play. If he’s absent it will be interesting to see what changes Ricky makes to a very strong backline, particularly in regards to where Wighton plays.
The Warriors themselves boast a fearsome backline, spearheaded by Tuivasa-Scheck, and the Green Machine will need to be wary of letting any of them get outside and round them.
Off The Pine
Austin – It’ll be interesting to see how he can spark in the hooking role (please don’t shift Sezer when Havili comes off).
Paulo – the other big guy in rotation, which means the Raiders always have one wrecking ball in play.
Lui – solid effort in round 2 earns him another week.
Knight – Now we finally start to see some of the other options available for the bench. Needs a strong performance.
The Warriors have Tevaga, Paasi, Lisone and Afoa. Lisone made strong contributions in the Warriors win over the Titans.
Where It Can Be Won
The Warriors can be hard to pin down if you let them start playing expansive footy – the Raiders need to present a cohesive defensive line complete with secure tackles (no offloads!)
Raiders by 2!