The Wests Tigers will host the Canberra Raiders on Sunday afternoon at Campbelltown Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Tigers currently sit in ninth place two points a drift of the top 8. They are on a two match losing streak but only narrowly losing to two top eight sides in the Sydney Roosters and Cronulla Sharks, it’s by no means time to panic yet but they must regain the early season form to push for a place inside the top eight.
Canberra were narrowly beaten by the table topping Penrith Panthers last Friday by one point. It continued the season trend for the Raiders who blew another lead and lost narrowly, the Raiders will need to start racking up some wins if they are to stay within striking distance of the eight.
Malakai Watene-Zelezniak come onto the wing after being dropped on game day last Sunday. Kevin Naiqama holds his spot on the wing and Corey Thompson moves to fullback with Tui Lolohea dropping out. Matt McIlwrick comes in on the bench, Elijah Taylor has been named at hooker. Robbie Rochow also makes a return in the starting side and Josh Aloiai moves to the bench.
In a massive inclusion for the Raiders, star hooker Josh Hodgson will return from an ACL injury after just six months recovery. Hodgson will slot straight into the starting side, Siliva Havili drops to the bench while Ata Hingano has not been named. Winger Jordan Rapana has a torn hamstring and will be missing for eight weeks with Michael Oldfield taking his spot on the wing. Joseph Tapine is back from suspension in the second row and Iosia Soliola moves to prop with Dunamis Lui going to the bench.
In regards to the shaping of the top 8, this clash is massive. It is ninth against tenth and both sides can make some serious in roads this week in their finals charge.
Canberra have had the wood over the Tigers in the past two season posting some mammoth scores over them (60, 52, 46), however this is a very different Tigers outfit. The Wests Tigers will be eager to show a big crowd at Campbelltown on a sunny Sunday arvo that they are out to play this season.
This match has massive bearings on the race to the top 8 and it will come down to whoever has more control over the football and which side can build more pressure. Canberra made an inexcusable 16 errors last week and were only beaten by one point, if Canberra can eradicate the errors out of their game they will win.
The Tigers, just like the Raiders, need to learn how to control a game better. They lead the Sharks 10-2 at half time last week and looked lost at times in the second half conceding 22 second half points, if the Tigers race away to an early lead and learn that the game is never won in the first half they will win.
The Raiders have a combined 158 points scored against the Tigers in their past three encounters (52 points per game) compared to the Tigers 22 (7 points per game).
Wests Tigers: 1 Corey Thompson, 2 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Mahe Fonua, 5 Kevin Naiqama, 6 Josh Reynolds, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer (c), 9 Elijah Taylor, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Chris Lawrence, 12 Robbie Rochow, 13 Matt Eisenhuth
Interchange: 14 Alex Twal, 15 Matt McIlwrick, 16 Josh Aloiai, 17 Tim Grant
Reserves: 18 Michael Chee-Kam, 19 Tyson Gamble, 20 Sauaso Sue, 21 Chris McQueen
Raiders: 1 Jack Wighton, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Jarrod Croker (c), 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Michael Oldfield, 6 Blake Austin, 7 Aidan Sezer, 8 Iosia Soliola, 9 Josh Hodgson, 10 Shannon Boyd, 11 Joseph Tapine, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Josh Papalii
Interchange: 14 Siliva Havili, 15 Luke Bateman, 16 Dunamis Lui, 17 Liam Knight
Reserves: 18 Emre Guler, 19 Brad Abbey, 20 Jack Murchie, 21 Craig Garvey
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 17th June
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium
WHO WILL WIN?
It’s very hard to pick a winner in this one, it’s a tipsters nightmare. Both sides have shown glimpses to prove they can compete with the best but both have trouble closing games. Canberra have shown a lot in attack but the Tigers have shown their defence is rock solid, Canberra with inclusion of Josh Hodgson should be enough to get the Raiders season back on track.
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