After an unceremonious blip against the Panthers, the Raiders bounced back with something of a blowout win over 2020 sad sacks the Broncos. It wasn’t a perfect performance by any measure, but it showed that when focussed the Green Machine is easily capable of dominating the strugglers this season.
The Titans, of all the Queensland sides, are at least having a crack at footy. They’ve managed to jag a few wins here and there, enough to take them to the top of their “conference”. Under newcomer Holbrook they’re starting to iron out the wrinkles in their game, and they’ve just splashed a huge amount of cash to lure David Fifita away from Brisbane.
Rebuilding aside they’re still an also ran in 2020, and the Raiders have already dispatched them once during the truncated start to the year (that two game stint before the virus fully took hold feels like a distant memory). Given that the Raiders are now playing for tactical positioning in the finals they have much more driving them forward.
After a somewhat dour opening thirty minutes against Brisbane the Raiders finally roared into life, and a healthy chunk of the credit needs to go to Tom Starling – his options at rake got the forwards rolling and the defence guessing. His passing from the ruck delights, especially the spiralling cutouts that quickly move the ball to the edges where Bateman and CHN are lurking.
Judging by the team list Sticky is staying with his current formula – Havili starts the pack off on a sure footing defensively while the Raiders play a somewhat frustrating brand of one-out footy before Starling comes on to spark the attack. It’s a solid enough plan for now, but I would like to see Starling enter the fray before the first half is completely gone.
The Broncos defensive effort in the second half was porous at best and I think the Raiders will need to work a bit harder to exploit any gaps in the Titans line – getting the ball into the hands of Tapine, Bateman and CHN is key. All three have a strong tackle break, and have the option of either moving the pill onto the wing or getting it back inside to the likes of CNK or Wighton.
Another facet that needs refinement is the long range kicking – both Jack and George punted huge kicks that rolled dead and handed Brisbane a nifty seven tackles from the twenty. If Canberra wants to stifle the Titans in possession and territory they need to be a bit more selective with kick placement.
The Titans are without Captain Chomp for the next four rounds but Canberra should still be wary of the talent that remains. Ash Taylor is coming back into form and it’s essential the Raiders deny him space to organise and execute.
A win here is a chance to generate momentum heading into the finals. After the Titans the Raiders only face two top eight sides, the Roosters, whom they’ve beaten once already and have a casualty ward on par with Canberra, and the Sharks who are fighting to stay in the eight.
That’s not to say every game is a gimme but there’s opportunity aplenty to refine the team as whole and give them a chance of going past week one.
Raiders by 12+!