Junior Paulo will face his old side for the first time on Sunday afternoon when the Canberra Raiders take on the Parramatta Eels at GIO Stadium.
The Eels were dominant in their 36-6 drubbing of the Raiders in round 6 but the Parramatta empire has well and truly crumbled since that day, while the Raiders’ stock has risen.
LAST TIME OUT
The Raiders met Melbourne on Monday night in a battle touted as attack v defence. Canberra were meant to be the team lethal in attack and Joey Leilua starred in a 22-8 victory for the Raiders.
However, they proved that their defence is nothing to be scoffed at either. The Storm hardly troubled the Raiders line as they continuously found themselves swamped by players in green. If the rest of the NRL wasn’t taking notice already, they certainly are now.
The Eels were so poor against the Broncos many spectators were unsure if Brisbane had returned to form or if Parramatta simply made them look good.
Parramatta were defeated by Brisbane 38-16 at Suncorp Stadium in error strewn performance. Bevan French, a beacon of hope in a season from hell, opened the scoring for the Eels in the fourth minute but a Corey Oates hat trick wrestled the momentum back to the home side.
Kurt Baptiste (Adam Clydsdale) v Isaac De Gois
The absence of arguably the most influential player in the NRL this season, Josh Hodgson, will be an area the Eels will try to exploit.
Isaac De Gois has been solid yet unspectacular in his appearances for Parramatta since Nathan Peats’ departure but in the absence of Hodgson for the Raiders, it could be enough.
Baptiste has been named to start and the PNG international adds plenty of spark to the Raiders attack but his passing can be wayward. Stuart could be aiming to try and blow the opposition away with a high tempo game like he did against the Warriors in New Zealand but don’t be surprised to see a late change.
Clydsdale is more of a traditional hooker and is a better passer of the ball than Baptiste and could provide stability and fit more into Stuart’s favoured game plan. While Baptiste could enter the fray later in the match, with Clydsdale moving to lock.
After a poor performance last season, the Eels will fight back strongly and will push the Raiders all the way.
However, the Green Machine have got the taste of winning and know that one more win will secure a top four position.
Raiders by eight.
Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Brenko Lee 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Junior Paulo 9. Kurt Baptiste 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Josh Papalii 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Iosia Soliola Interchange: 14. Adam Clydsdale 15. Luke Bateman 16. Clay Priest 17. Joseph Tapine 18. Jarrad Kennedy
Eels: 1. Michael Gordon 2. Semi Radradra 3. Michael Jennings 4. Manu Ma’u 5. Bevan French 6. Clinton Gutherson 7. Jeff Robson 8. Danny Wicks 9. Isaac De Gois 10. Tim Mannah 11. Ken Edwards 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Beau Scott Interchange: 14. Kaysa Pritchard 15. David Gower 16. Peni Terepo 17. Daniel Alvaro