The Raiders are on the road to redemption. It’s not been a pretty recovery, but three wins straight is better than anything else they’ve managed this year. Their round 19 win over the Eels was the stuff that coaches dream of, a battered side low on stock scrounging up everything they can to best a favoured opponent.
Following that win Canberra lingered briefly in the eight, eventually dislodged by the points differential of the Sharks. The run to the finals is exclusively against top eight sides bar this game and the Warriors. The Raiders have some hard yards ahead.
Like Canberra, the Novocastrians have been an erratic side in 2021, illustrated perfectly by their commanding 38-0 win over the Cows which was promptly followed by a bye and then a 48-4 loss to the Storm.
The Raiders have momentum on their side, and with falling reserves, particularly in the backline, they need to draw on every ounce of grit that they can. The Knights have copped successive drubbings the last two weeks which means they’re wounded but angry.
There’s movement personnel wise – Ryan Sutton will be out a few weeks, with Hudson Young moving into lock. Young’s been quietly returning to form after a patchy period and can cause havoc in the Knights line with his quick working off Josh Hodgson or Tom Starling’s shoulder.
Wighton himself needs to have impact in every game until season’s end. Canberra have certainly sharpened their running and attacking sweeps, and they just need a bit more show ‘n’ go from Jack to crack open right hand defences.
Papa needs clearance after his head knock last week, but is provisionally named in the starting forwards. More offloads would be very welcome, and players like CHN will no doubt be keen to pop a pass once he’s in the line. The Knights will be awake to this strategy and Raiders forwards need to be sure there’s someone ready to receive the ball when they pop it free.
Defence against the Eels was tremendous, a throwback to the Raiders of 2019. It was focussed and strong, and with the exception of Semi’s overly aggravating lunges, very efficient. Canberra have been pretty good at smothering teams trying to leave their own ends so more of that please.
Early kicking helps to nullify some of crappiness of V’Landoball. Although they rarely find grass the Raiders kickers have discovered that an early punt coupled with a good chase can have a very tiring effect on opposing forwards – expect to see the Knights pack turned around on time after time.
Canberra have demonstrated over the last three games that they can still be a disruptor this season. While I don’t think they can stick it to the likes of Melbourne and Penrith they can certainly provide headaches for other top eight aspirants, and maybe even make it a week or two into finals.
The Green Machine by 10+ through canny and brutal play!