Canberra Raiders have a point to prove after being edged out by defending premiers Cronulla Sharks with their first rematch since that epic Saturday night in early September 2016.
The Viking Clap and Edrick Lee facing his former club for the first time will be great viewing in this blockbuster.
LAST TIME OUT
Last weekend both sides met Queensland sides and ended up on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
Cronulla’s defence of the NRL Premiership didn’t go quite to plan in going down 26-18 to Brisbane at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Brisbane led 12-6 at the break and Corey Oates’ four pointer six minutes into the second half gave his side their biggest lead of the game. James Maloney and Ricky Leutele led the Sharks charge to trail by two points on the hour. It was all to no avail as Anthony Milford scored the winner with eleven minutes left to play.
Canberra showed plenty of fight against the North Queensland Cowboys at 1300 Smiles Stadium as they forced the match into golden point thanks to Joey Leilua second try three minutes from full-time. A slice of luck ended the Raiders night when Johnathan Thurston’s missed field goal attempt hit the cross-bar and stayed in-goal, allowing Gavin Cooper to score the match winner. Even more incredible was the fact Canberra were starved of possession and managed to get into extra time.
The engine room battle and halves will determine this result. Junior Paulo’s contest with Andrew Fifita is a battle of the intimidating big boys. When these two come together expect the game to fire up. Don’t discount Shannon Boyd who gained International rep honours in 2016, and Matt Prior who has plenty of experience.
It goes without saying James Maloney and Chad Townsend up against Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer will be captivating. There’s been plenty of talk about Mitchell Pearce being a choice to play half-back for New South Wales, but neither Townsend or Sezer should be discounted. Sezer looks more likely to get a call-up if they opt out of selecting the Rooster. A big performance in a big game like this will help his cause.
The fire is in the belly of the Raiders but the question remains how much the loss to North Queensland will affect their performance? No Jarrod Croker didn’t seem to phase them last week. It might just be Cronulla in a tight one with a huge watch on Edrick Lee against his old club.
Sharks by 4
Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks at GIO Stadium, 7.30pm (AEDT) Saturday
Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Nick Cotric 3. Elliott Whitehead 4. Joey Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Junior Paulo 9. Josh Hodgson (C) 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Josh Papalii 12. Sia Soliola 13. Luke Bateman 14. Adam Clydsdale 15. Dunamis Lui 16. Jeff Lima 17. Scott Sorensen 18. Jordan Turner 19. Zac Santo 20. Makahesi Makatoa 21. Lachlan Croker
Sharks: 1. Gerard Beale 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Jack Bird 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Edrick Lee 6. James Maloney 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen 14. Jayson Bukuya 15. Chris Heighington 16. Sam Tagataese 17. Fa’amanu Brown 18. Tony Williams 19. Kurt Capewell 20. Joseph Paulo 21. Jeremy Latimore