Canberra Raiders host the win-less Parramatta Eels at home on Saturday fresh off a gutsy victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs last Thursday.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Canberra Raiders were desperate to record their first win of the season against another struggling outfit in the Bulldogs, they were clinical in both attack and defence which helped guide them to their first victory of the season. The win came at a cost however, with the Raiders eventually ending up with no men on the bench losing three to failed HIA tests and halfback Sam Williams to a knee injury.
Parramatta Eels to put it kindly, have been awful to start the season. They have only tallied 44 points in total which is a competition low and have the second worse defence conceding 134 points in only 5 games. They look a shadow of the team they were in 2017 and they will be wanting to quickly start putting wins on the board. Against the Penrith Panthers last time out, they didn’t even look like scoring and relied on a lucky bounce to record some points in a disappointing 12-6 loss.
The Raiders have a few injury concerns with Ata Hingano, Michael Oldfield and Aidan Sezer all failing HIA tests and with Sam Williams out for 4-6 weeks with a torn Medial, it will be interesting to see what 17 Ricky Stuart eventually fields on Saturday. Fullback Jack Wighton has been named despite an ongoing legal dispute where he will face the magistrate on Wednesday to learn his fate, with Brad Abbey and Michael Oldfield in the mix to take his spot.
The Eels will welcome back cult hero Clint Gutherson after a lengthy knee injury has kept him out since round 20 last year, he will slot right into fullback with Bevan French moving to the wing in place of Josh Hoffman, Will Smith drops to the reserves. Parramatta will miss Nathan Brown for a period of time with an ankle injury, Tepai Moeroa will take his place and Kane Evans moves to the bench.
Both sides head into this clash with pretty awful form, however, it is the Raiders who are revelling after they recorded their first win of 2018. Parramatta are still yet to record a victory after 5 rounds, so in some sense this is a must win clash for both sides.
The key match-up in this game is the halves battle between two struggling combinations. Aidan Sezer was absolutely phenomenal against the Bulldogs with his kicking game instrumental in the victory, while Blake Austin has spent the last two weeks running around in reserve grade. Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman are copping a lot of slack for Parra’s stuttering attack and their partnership has come under question. With floating rumours that Norman may be Canberra bound and Austin to Parra, it will be interesting how this clash plays out.
The Brisbane Broncos are the only side in history (1999) to start a season 0-5 and play in the finals, so the odds are stacked against the blue and gold. Parramatta simply need to start winning and it must happen this week, their big-name players have to start proving their worth and show why they were one of the competition favourites prior to kick off in 2018.
This game will have finals like intensity with both sides eager to show they still have plenty to play for this season, Canberra will be out to make it two wins on the trot and edge closer to the pack, while the Eels will look to register their first points.
Parramatta have only won 4 of 20 meetings against the Raiders at GIO stadium, the last coming back in 2006.
Raiders: 1 Jack Wighton, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Jarrod Croker (c), 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Blake Austin, 7 Aidan Sezer, 8 Iosia Soliola, 9 Siliva Havili, 10 Junior Paulo, 11 Joseph Tapine, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Luke Bateman Interchange: 14 Ata Hingano, 15 Shannon Boyd, 16 Josh Papalii, 17 Dunamis Lui Reserves: 18 Liam Knight, 19 Michael Oldfield, 20 Brad Abbey, 21 Jack Murchie
Eels: 1 Clint Gutherson, 2 George Jennings, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Kirisome Auva’a, 5 Bevan French, 6 Corey Norman, 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Peni Terepo, 9 Kaysa Pritchard, 10 Tim Mannah (c), 11 Manu Ma’u, 17 Tony Williams, 13 Tepai Moeroa Interchange: 14 Beau Scott, 15 Kenny Edwards, 16 Daniel Alvaro, Kane Evans Reserves: 18 Will Smith, 19 David Gower, 20 Suaia Matagi, 21 Josh Hoffman
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday April 14
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 7:30 pm
WHO WILL WIN?
A match with plenty to play for, both sides are eager to kick start their respective seasons. With Parra win-less and Canberra wanting to extend their winning record, it will be a very tight affair. Look for Aidan Sezer to be the game breaker once again for the Raiders while Clint Gutherson will provide spark to the Eels attack. Canberra should be too good home soil however.