The Raiders were the surprise packet all the way back in round 10 when they sprung an ambush on the chooks at the SCG. Reeling from a host of injuries and carrying some middling form they were long odds to defeat the Tri-colours. But defeat them they did, and apart from the Panthers blip it’s pretty much been winning (although sometimes patchy) for the Milk.
Since that game Canberra has made improvements to it’s roster. The team has a revamped forward pack that includes newcomer CHN, one that’s strong but also flexible enough for Coach Stuart to feel comfortable tinkering with the rotation and starting lineup. They have had some slow starts, but this almost always leads to them building to a crescendo somewhere around the 35 minute mark when the opposition pack withers and folds.
The Roosters however won’t just roll over, which is why Stuart has held Lui back from the run on side in favour of big impact off the bench. He doesn’t quite make the yardage of Papa but he can effectively punch into the line and drag in defenders. Papa at this point is set to start and the Raiders need him to match and contain JWH through the middle. The chooks will remember how they got rolled last time and will no doubt be ready to muscle up.
Expect Sydney to funnel a lot of traffic into Scott’s corridor – he’s still waiting for clearance on a leg issue but has been named in the side. I personally would’ve liked for Timoko to get another shot after his solid showing last week. Scott has definitely improved since his low point, but the defence on the right remains suspect and an easy target for try-hungry oppositions.
If there’s one game in the regular season where Wighton and Williams need to steer the ship with precision it’s this one. Stuart needs to make it clear that no one outside of the playmakers should be putting in tricky kicks as they pretty much hand the other side 7 tackles from the 20.
I’d advocate for the Raiders to kick early and turn the likes of Tedesco and the Moz Bros around but I worry about the amount of room this could give them in broken field play. It may be more beneficial for the Raiders to get closer before Wighton puts up a swirling bomb.
The Roosters welcome back Luke Keary and it’s essential that the Raiders limit his space and room in attack. If they don’t shut him down he’ll be putting quick forwards and speedsters into gaps. While foxsports have been having a meltdown over SBW the Raiders have hopefully been planning for the real threat.
This game won’t be like the last encounter. The chooks know what’s coming as do the Raiders. Completion rates and ball control will be critical along with game management. Let’s hope the Raiders are ready to plunder.
Raiders by a very gritty 6!