A rematch of a preliminary final of last year, the Canberra Raiders will be out for revenge against a Melbourne Storm side who welcome back their Origin stars, while Canberra will be without enforcer Josh Papalii who will serve a two game suspension for a shoulder charge. This game will have different meaning for both sides, for Melbourne it’s about keeping first place and for Canberra it’s all about keeping their season alive.
Last Time Out
Last week the Canberra crowd saw it all in a thrilling match which saw the home side finally score a golden point win. The match started well for the green machine who scored first courtesy of teenage sensation Nick Cotric, however it would be the Dragons who went into the sheds with the advantage thanks to two quick tries late in the half to wingers Nene McDonald and Jason Nightingale. With their backs to the wall, the Dragons looked like they were going to extend their if not for Raiders halfback Aidan Sezer who took an intercept to run 90 metres and level the game. Both sides then exchanged penalty goals to lock it up at 14-14 all. Both sides looked to finish the game with a field goal but their attempts were quite poor. The game went into golden point and it was Sezer again who kicked a monster 40/20 which lead to Dave Taylor’s heroics to put Elliot Whitehead over the stripe with an amazing offload. Canberra escaped with a thrilling 18-14 win but will need to be a lot better against Melbourne and will have to do it without Josh Papalii who will serve a ban for a shoulder charge on Dragons fullback Josh Dugan.
Melbourne had a well-deserved week off after an intense Origin period. They will welcome back Billy Slater, Will Chambers, Cameron Munster, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith, Tim Glasby and Felise Kaufusi. Melbourne were understandably quite poor against Parramatta in their last match. They were never in control of the game and were always playing catch up footy. Melbourne lost centre Cheyse Blair in the match due to ankle injury which will sideline him for the rest of the season. Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona had solid games both running for over 100 metres while replacement fullback Jahrome Hughes had a terrific game crossing for a try and running for 193 metres. Melbourne will welcome back their stars with open arms.
Both sides have huge forward packs, which will be the deciding factor in this one. Jesse Bromwich and Tim Glasby are devastating on their day and their bench rotation with Kenny Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Nate Myles they are a dangerous side. Canberra’s forwards are just as big and powerful, Junior Paulo and Shannon Boyd on their day are arguably the two best props in the league. Canberra will be without Josh Papalii which will be a huge loss, maybe too big of a loss for Canberra. Papalii is replaced by rangy backrower Joseph Tapine who can cause damage on the edge and will take the opportunity to start with open arms. With both packs playing behind the Kangaroos hooker Cameron Smith up against the English hooker Josh Hodgson it will be a very intriguing contest with two mastermind hookers who will look to get the ball rolling. Whichever monster forward pack shows up and plays to their full potential, that will be where the game is won.
With both sides in different predicaments at this stage of the season, it will be about who wants it more on the day. With revenge on their mind for the preliminary final loss last year and the clash being almost do-or-die, Canberra can ill afford to slip further away from the pack. Melbourne will be hungry to consolidate top spot and will welcome their big guns back. It really is an intriguing clash, but Canberra will be too hungry to lose this one.
Canberra by 4
Canberra: 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. Joseph Tapine 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Iosia Soliola 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Luke Bateman 16. Dave Taylor 17. Michael Oldfield 18. Royce Hunt 19. Erin Clark 20. Liam Knight 21. Scott Sorensen
Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. William Chambers 4. Young Tonumaipea 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Tim Glasby 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Tohu Harris 13. Dale Finucane 14. Kenneath Bromwich 15. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 16. Nate Myles 17. Joe Stimson 18. Mark Nicholls 19. Curtis Scott 20. Slade Griffin 21. Robbie Rochow