The Canberra Raiders spanked the Dragons last week. That’s about as polite as I can be about a game in which one side showed fortitude, and the other let a team with 12 men run roughshod over the them. The Raiders overcame what we called the demons of Darwin (getting physically out-muscled) and even overcame the first send-off for a dangerous throw since before Super League. Up 22, down a man, and with 13 minutes to go, they took the tap instead of the two, scored by going up the guts. It was that kind of game. They were dominant. And it’s looking good for the next few weeks.
So naturally we should all be very worried.
Games like this weekend have often been a trap for the Raiders. A good win and a home game to follow, an opposition that were pantsed in their previous outing. In recent years these noteworthy victories have often been followed by nothing but frustration. So will 2019 continue to buck the trend?
The Tigers had a better game that most realise against the Eels. They actually went try-for-try with Parramatta – the difference was in kicking. Esan Masters will hand the kicking duties over the Moses Mbye, who at least managed to put one between the uprights. They are a disciplined side, and always play above their talent level. Farah, Marshall and Lawrence will always make good decisions. Matterson and Twaal provide a sign of a bright future. And Michael Chee-Kam scores game winning tries for some reason. In short, you can’t fuck around if you want the two points.
The Raiders have a forced change due to Nic Cotric’s suspension. Michael Oldfield comes into centre, and I’ve never felt comfortable with his defence there. Ryan Sutton is still missing with a sore calf. Worryingly he went from being out 1-2 weeks to being indefinitely missing. It’s not a good sign. Hopefully he can get healthy. Emre Guler is there in his place, and had some good moments against the Dragons. Here’s hoping he continues to get some minutes.
Last time they faced Canberra, the Raiders showed that they could match the Tigers for discipline and added in a bit of talent and flair the Tigers couldn’t handle. After a fortnight to think about the Eels loss and get ready for the Dragons, the Tigers loom as another opportunity for the Raiders to fortify their position in the top four. But they better be ready to earn it.
Head to Head
Normally Rob picks a person, but what i’m most interested in is the effort levels of the Raiders big men after last week. The forward pack had plenty of time to rest their weary bones in order to fight the Dragons massive pack. The Tigers aren’t as big, but a week of hard work may take some of the starch out of the Raiders.
Were the Raiders just well-rested last week? Or are they going to turn that performance into a habit? My feeling is the latter – something about the way John Bateman was yelling at them before the Dragons game suggests he’s not interested in taking games off.
Green Star Award
If you’ve read these pages for a bit, you’ll know we have feelings about Josh Hodgson. Against the Dragons he turned the ruck into his own personal fiefdom, and when the Raiders had the ball he created more space than should have been possible. It was great to see him take a bigger role in things, and his kicking made grown men weep for there were no more worlds to conquer. If he can turn around anything remotely that performance this week the Raiders are home.
While we’re here, let’s remember the greatest individual game of his career came against the Tigers back in 2016.
This is going to be closer than people think, and the Tigers will never give up, but the Raiders defensive discipline and intelligence with the ball will get them home.
(It’s still weird to write that in round 18).
Raiders by 4.