Last season this clash would be a battle of the heavyweights, however, for the Canberra Raiders and North Queensland Cowboys it will all be on the line as both teams aim to get their seasons back on track with a vital two points. The Cowboys will blood Te Marie Martin for the first time in Cowboy’s colours while the Raiders welcome back the ‘Coal Train’ Dave Taylor.

Last week Canberra were simply outclassed by an understrength Brisbane side. Benji Marshall turned back the years with the veteran pivot instrumental having a hand in three of five Brisbane’s tries, Matt Gillett crossed the line twice and ran for 146 metres. For the Raiders, the best was once again Jordan Rapana who ran for an impressive 173 metres a game high including 1 linebreak and 3 tacklebusts, which in both fields Rapana leads across the whole competition. The loss compounded the Raiders to their third straight loss which leaves them four points outside the top 8.

North Queensland left it late against a plucky Penrith side last week to eventually take out the two points. Kyle Feldt’s moment of acrobatic magic and Ethan Lowe’s clutch sideline conversion to win the game right at the death ended the Panther’s four game winning streak. Coen Hess backed up from his State of Origin debut beautifully, as the inform backrower ran for a whopping 245 metres, Jason Taumalolo was back at it again doing what he does best running for 222 metres and making 30 tackles, while for Penrith, rake Mitch Rein made an incredible 50 tackles and fullback Dylan Edwards made 201 metres. This was such an important win for the Cowboys as they started life after Jonathon Thurston in perfect fashion.

Key Battle

Canberra are under siege and their halves have come under the microscope and it goes without saying they will be keen to make a statement against a new Cowboys halves combination. Blake Austin has been by his high standards poor this season while Aidan Sezer has not been setting the world alight either, Te Marie Martin will be keen to show why he can be Jonathon Thurston’s heir as he has massive boots to fill but it helps having someone with class of Michael Morgan beside him in the halves. For Austin and Sezer it’s all about controlling the game and trying to force repeat sets something which they have not done well at all this season. Martin and Morgan will look to get off to a perfect start as a combination. Morgan has 10 try assists, more than Austin and Sezer have combined. Whichever halves combo steps up and takes control on Saturday will go a long to deciding who wins this match.

Prediction

In round 1 the Cowboys beat the Raiders in a golden point thriller which has been the story of Canberra’s faltering season to date. A 7:30 start on a chilly Canberra night will help the green machine in this one. This is the strongest 17 Canberra has named all season and that should just give them the edge against a ‘Thurstonless’ Cowboys team. The potent right edge of Canberra of Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua will be the difference in this one as they will look to be the catalyst of Canberra’s dying season.
Raiders by 6

Squads

Raiders v Cowboys, Saturday 1 July, 7:30 at GIO Stadium
Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Junior Paulo 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Josh Papalii 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Iosia Soliola 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Luke Bateman 16. Dave Taylor 17. Joseph Tapine 18. Scott Sorensen 19. Royce Hunt 20. Adam Clydsdale 21. Clay Priest

Cowboys: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Antonio Winterstein 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Michael Morgan 8. John Asiata 9. Jake Granville 10. Scott Bolton 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Ben Hampton 15. Coen Hess 16. Shaun Fensom 17. Corey Jensen 18. Kyle Laybutt 19. Kalyn Ponga 20. Braeden Uele 21. Patrick Mago