Last week the Raiders got the job done. It wasn’t pretty, and for awhile there it did kind of look like they might not prevail. But where the Raiders of old would have folded like a cheap Kmart camping chair the Raiders of 2020 maintained enough grit and structure to not only hold the Tigers out but also get ahead of them on the scoreboard and stay there.
That grit is going to be to extra necessary this round as the Raiders face a team who has arguably become one of their bogey opponents, as demonstrated in the graphic below.
That information tells us that Canberra need to be fortified both physically and mentally, as Manly have a way of getting under their skin and staying there like a bad STI. The Sea-eagles, like Canberra, have adapted to the new speed of the game, and are using their forward pack to bash their way through the middle corridor before going hunting on the fringes with the likes of Tom Trbojevic. The Raiders need their edge defenders to be on high alert for attacking sweeps where TT quite often tries to scythe between a centre and a second rower before turning his run back in field. If they can stifle this aspect of Manly’s game they’ll go a long way to frustrating the Silvertails.
For the Raiders in attack impetus is king – they need to get their bigger units hitting the advantage line at speed and either dragging defenders for solid PCMs or getting quick rucks (or both even). I lamented to watch last round too often forwards receiving the ball while standing flat, more often than not gaining barely any territory before hitting the line.
The Raiders cop a double boost in the form of Horsburgh and the ever polarising Hudson Young. If there’s two youthful forwards who can give it to the Manly engine room then these are your guys. Young has a surprisingly deft touch about him, whereas Horsburgh is purely about winning the wrestle in attack, more often than not playing the ball from a standing position. If Big Red can frustrate Manly defenders into hanging on too long he can easily generate set restarts to march Canberra downfield.
Dunamis Lui and Bailey Simonsson miss out this game, and I personally feel this to be a sign that Stuart is already tactically deploying his roster where possible. Lui has had good-mixed results the last few games and may benefit from some distanced objectivity. Simonsson is still growing as a player, and while he has the drive I do think that Stick has identified the need for an older, somewhat stronger player in the fight against Manly.
THE VAUNTED OPPOSITION
The Raiders need to maintain line consistency once Manly enter their red zone. DCE will undoubtedly be looking to place sharp grubbers in behind the defence and players who rush up will leave gaping holes for attackers to stroll though and ground the ball. Cotric and Rapana need to be watching for any cross-field chips where Trbojevic or others can fall into the in-goal with ball in hand.
After smacking Melbourne at home this is the toughest outing for Canberra so far this year. Manly are quickly shaping up to be a top eight side to be wary of, and if Canberra can hold them off here it’ll help to solidify their defensive credentials and their confidence
Raiders by a hard fought 6!