Raiders Rumble! Raiders v Sharks MAGIC ROUND Preview

BY DAN

Hold tight. Batten down the hatches. Ride the wave. Hope for the best.

Though much less serious than what is facing Queensland in the next few days (please, stay safe Queenslanders), this is the start of a tough period for the Milk. Or the elongation of one. Either way their draw coming up is frankly a bit rude, and it starts with an in-form Sharks team this week. They’re coming off a heroic victory with only 12 players (and 11 in parts) over a team the Milk collapsed against the week before. Canberra are coming off an unnecessarily stressful victory over a fellow spoon-challenger.

Against a side like this you wouldn’t mind a bit of a wet ball to lessen the effectiveness of their excellent shifts. While Lang Park will be inundated with an incredible amount of rain over the next few days, the forecast is only for a small amount of rain on Sunday. Then again, god knows what state Lang Park will be in by that point. 8 games in a drowned sandpit probably isn’t going to end well.

Canberra beat this Sharks side before, back when we had hope and the sun shone in our souls (remember it? It was so warm). Things have changed pretty substantially since then. You know what’s happened to the Milk. The Sharks have gone in the opposite direction (outside of randomly losing to the Broncos at Lang Park). They’re the force to be reckoned with we thought the Raiders would be when they pipped Cronulla with that beautiful set play between Matt Timoko and Hudson Young.

*Sigh*

Who’s Playing

Jarrod Croker’s shoulder injury wasn’t as bad as thought, but he’ll still miss this week (and a couple more). That brings in Seb Kris, who’s going to have a helluva day marking up on Siosifa Talakai. We’ve spoken about this before, but he’s not the most agile gent. That means the job of utility back goes to Xavier Savage, which is more of a note to say “you’re next in line” because I’m not really sure how he’s going to be used other than as injury coverage for Charnze’s cork/confidence. Would he be a straight swap at the back? It seems that job goes to Rapa now, so I guess we wait to see X on the wing at the end of the game? I’d prefer he starts and Kris is used as the utility, but here we are.

Corey Harawira-Naera is named at lock, with a bench rotation of Sutton and Horsburgh to take over the middle with Adam Elliott in the second unit. That rotation is such a huge part of whether Canberra is successful. The last few weeks they’ve been improving. Let’s hope the trajectory remains that way.

What We’ll be Watching

This piece by Mike Meehall Wood talks a lot about the Sharks attacking style being prevalent with push supports – i.e players pushing up as options for the ball players to hit. Players like Toby Rudolph, Siosifa Talakai and Cam McInnes might not be the biggest forwards (though Talakai is a very big back), but their numbers, agility and the synchronicity of their runs tests the decision-making across the defensive line. Canberra’s defence hasn’t been their biggest problem this year, but this is going to be a substantial challenge.

Nicho Hynes has been named at 1, which is a little bit of a surprise. If he reprises the Will Kennedy role he’ll be sweeping on both sides of the ruck. There’s a big responsibility on the middle forwards to push up and out to remove his space, but also on the centres to make the right read to find him out the back (or not). That’s quite the challenge for Matt Timoko and Seb Kris. It may remove Hynes from much of the organisational work (though it also may not), but it will mean he’ll need to be accounted for on both sides of the ball. Further in means Canberra can’t take advantage of his less-than-stellar edge defence (though without Jack Wighton that was going to be much harder anyway). Then again he also might just defend at 1 and play half while Matt Moylan or Connor Tracey sweeps out the back in attack.

Talakai at left centre (attacking the Raiders right edge) is a significant change from round one, and a massive challenge for Kris and that entire edge. They looked fragile when Matt Burton got in amongst them last week. This is a different challenge, but successfully managing it will be a huge part of managing a way towards victory.

One thing that having Matt Frawley in the side seemed to do was introduce more attacking options to Hudson Young. He should have scored one try, and generally was a pretty strong threat getting a little more earlier ball than he normally would. The Sharks’ edge defence can be taken advantage of, so there’s another opportunity there for Young to build on his good outing last week.

How the Raiders Can Win

Sticky’s plan at the moment seems to be to grind a way to victory. I don’t think this is a sustainable approach against an attack as drilled as the Sharks. While they held them to 20 points back in the first light of the season, this Cronulla team seems like a different beast (particularly with Talakai on the (Raiders) right edge. Canberra may need to open up the playbook a bit more than last week, because I don’t think they can win with 14 points again.

The Outcome

Raiders beat Talakai 10-8 but lose to Sharks 32-10.

I’m sorry this was sad but if you do us a solid and like our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or share this on social media I promise I’ll write something way happier later this week. Don’t hesitate to send us feedback or comment below if you think we are stupid. Or if we’re not.

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