The Raiders entered their game against Manly confident of a good showing and ended it in a somewhat dejected fashion. While they finished just four points adrift they looked to be without direction for nearly all of the second half, the spectre of 17/18 once again looming up behind them.
Round 8 sees them face off against the Panthers, a side who has its own share of problems in the opening rounds. The Mountain Men have consistently looked disorganised, and in their two lone wins have only snuck home by a maximum of two points (over the Knights) with just a field goal to keep Wests at bay.
The Raiders are yet to register a proper thrashing of an opposition, and I suspect there are some struggling teams praying that they don’t meet the Green Machine when the pieces finally click. Josh Hodgson can only be quiet for so long.
One of the talking points around this clash is the idea that Kikau will have eyes only for Williams. This is a feint, to some extent. While he will undoubtedly try and run over the little half at some point he’ll be spending all his time looking for sloppy defenders that he can easily brush past. The Raiders defence needs to wrap him up quickly, particularly on the fringes (I really hope Ricky has spent all of training making sure Williams holds his line).
With Rapana sidelined once more young Bailey Simonsson has been given another crack, assumedly because Oldfield only has one full game with Mounties under his belt. This is a risky period for Simonsson’s burgeoning confidence, and he should really only have to follow one simple instruction – be ready when BJ goes. If he can tail his partner without overrunning plays then he should be in a good position to help with attacking raids.
Guler and Murchie have been returned to reserves, with Young and Horsburgh rotating back onto the bench again. One gets the feeling that Stuart may continue in this vein for some time, until he’s finally satisfied as to which two youngsters add the best value along side Havili and Soliola.
For the Raiders discipline is the key stat this round, especially when it comes to penalties conceded. The battle was swinging their way against Manly until a spate of penalties gave the Sea Eagles a lift up to the Raiders try-line, negating any energy loss from Manly having to work it up field. Some of the forwards in particular need to be very aware of clearing the ruck quickly and cleanly.
Head to Head
Jack Wighton vs James Maloney.
Wighton improves in almost every game, whether it’s in running, ball playing or kicking. Maloney, a decorated five eighth, is struggling to connect with some of his forwards and backline, a far cry from the player who partnered his club 7 to Origin victory last year. Still, there is every chance this could be the game where he resumes his cunning and craftiness, and you could argue that he is essentially a halfback who wears a 6 on his jersey.
Wighton on the other hand wields youth and enthusiasm, and is easily one of the most sizeable 6s in the comp. Look for more of what he put on against Manly, where he fires up to the line on an angle and then straightens to cut through.
Green Star Award
Stand up Jarrod Croker. The Raiders co-captain quietly did his thing out on the wing, but what he did was impressive – 12 carries for 152 metres, 34 of those being made post contact. He also had the best tackle efficiency of the backline (excluding Rapana). We joked in another piece last week about how he is routinely overlooked, and these stats just reinforce his stealthy nature to hard work.
It’s always a tough task against Penrith, and the Raiders will really need to buckle down defensively whilst also offering a bit more creativity than they did last week. If the forwards can clear space for Hodgson and co expect good things.
Raiders by 8!