The Canberra Raiders and Gold Coast Titans have come through the first two rounds of the 2014 NRL season with a win and a loss, and their match on Sunday night at GIO Stadium in Canberra shapes as a vital one for both sides.
The Raiders need to build on last week’s impressive display against the Knights, while the Titans need to bounce back from a 42-12 drubbing at the hands of the Wests Tigers.
The Raiders have lost some muscle in their forward pack; Josh Papalii is out with an ankle injury and workhorse Shaun Fensom has been suspended for a dangerous tackle on Knights centre Dane Gagai. On the plus side they gain QLD State of Origin prop David Shillington who returns from a major knee injury. Matt McIlwrick is the new man on the bench.
The Titans were completely outplayed by the Tigers and have dumped Maurice Blair to Intrust Super Cup duty with the Tweed Heads Seagulls, replaced by Brad Takairangi. Aidan Sezer, Greg Bird and Beau Falloon have been named despite injury concerns, while Mark Minichiello has recovered from a virus that kept him out of the match against the Tigers.
If the Raiders are serious contenders, they need to win this one in front of their home fans. They have played well in both their games,have plenty of strike power out wide and are up against a Titans side down on confidence. Jack Wighton is warming to his role as five eighth and Josh McCrone is providing good value coming off the bench. Anthony Milford was the difference between the Raiders and Knights last week and will again be the key for the Raiders. The Titans will need a massive improvement to match it with the Raiders and the spotlight is on their halves who have struggled so far in 2014.
An intriguing clash, but the Raiders are in better form and should make it two wins from three to start the year.