The Canberra Raiders will head across the ditch searching for their third straight win and in pursuit of a top eight finish, while for the New Zealand Warriors it’s all about pride and ending a five-match losing streak which has derailed their faltering NRL season. With two sides in contrasting form, there will be plenty of action at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday.
Last Time Out
It goes without saying… the Warriors were awful last week in their loss against cellar dwellers the Newcastle Knights. Newcastle lead from start to finish and never looked in any trouble, with rangy backrower Mitch Barnett crossing the line twice inside the first ten minutes. While the game was in the balance when David Fusitua crossed for a try, the score was at 12-4 but two penalty goals late in the first half extended Newcastle’s lead to 16-4 at the half. New Zealand had to be first to score in the second half, but instead Lachlan Fitzgibbon crossed over for Newcastle to put the game beyond reach, the Warriors restored some pride when bench utility Nathaniel Roache scored to put some respect in the scoreline, in a day of misery and a comeback not likely, Newcastle half Brock Lamb iced the game with a lovely piece of play to give Newcastle back to back wins for the first time since 2015 and compounded the Warriors to their fifth straight loss. The Warriors season has gone from bad to worse with their high-profile spine not tingling at all, the loss of Shaun Johnson is really hurting the men from Auckland.
The Canberra Raiders were near perfect against the Cronulla Sharks running away with a 30-12 victory. Canberra are now only four points outside the top eight and many have them catching the Penrith Panthers whom they face next week. The night started off badly for Canberra with a training ground move from the Sharks backline saw Sosaia Feki cross for an easy try, then a penalty goal from Valentine Holmes saw Cronulla fire out to an 8-0 lead within 10 minutes. Canberra were next to score through Josh Papalii who crashed over from close range, then they replied with a penalty goal to make it 8-8. The Green Machine then went on a rampage, Jordan Rapana scoring twice once from a beautiful kick from Blake Austin and the other from a beautiful pass from Joey Leilua out of dummy half but that seemed to be the appetiser for the try just before the bell, Elliot Whitehead gave a lovely offload to Josh Hodgson who threw a dummy and ran straight through to extend the lead to 24-8 at half time. Cronulla scored a long-range beauty through Gerard Beale to get the margin to within 12 and it seemed as though they were going to comeback after Josh Papalii was sinbinned for a professional foul, but Canberra controlled the game beautifully adding three penalty goals in a row to finish comprehensive winners.
The forwards for Canberra last week were faultless, Junior Paulo ran for over 200 metres and looked very hard to stop. The Warriors forwards looked below par against a young Newcastle pack and perhaps were outplayed. Ben Matulino still ran for 199 metres but his impact didn’t seem that big. If Canberra are to continue their charge to the finals their forwards must stand up like they did against Cronulla. Boyd and Paulo laid down the foundation nicely with strong surging runs to kick start their sets, Josh Papalii and Joseph Tapine looked very dangerous on the edges and Elliot Whitehead looked like a natural in the middle playing at lock. In a massive boost for the Warriors, they regain Ryan Hoffman from injury who will consolidate things in defence and his metres will certainly help. If New Zealand are any chance of winning this match they must limit Canberra’s big forwards from doing their thing and try use their forwards to lay the foundation for their backline.
One side is playing for their season, while the other is playing for pride. Canberra have undoubted ability and when they’re on they are very hard to beat. The Warriors have little to play for and without Johnson they look really clueless. Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana were back to their best, Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin seem to be hitting their straps at the right end of the season and the forwards are starting to regain their 2016 form. Unfortunately, the Warriors don’t have much of a chance in this one, however, this is a massive danger game for Canberra. The Warriors could come out to play this week.
Canberra by 16
Sunday 13 August, 2pm at Mt Smart Stadium
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-sheck 2. David Fusitua 3. Blake Ayshford 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kieran Foran 7. Mason Lino 8. Jacob Lillyman 9. Nathaniel Roache 10. Ben Matulino 11. Bunty Afoa 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Simon Mannering 14. Issac Luke 15. Sam Lisone 16. Isaiah Papalii 17. James Bell 18. Jazz Tevaga 20. Chris Satae 21. Mafoa’aeata Hingano 22. Charnze Nicoll-klokstad
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. Joseph Tapine 13. Elliot Whitehead 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Clay Priest 16. Dave Taylor 17. Luke Bateman 18. Michael Oldfield 19. Jeff Lima 20. Royce Hunt 21. Erin Clark