The Canberra Raiders have second place in their sights but need to win their next two matches to win the right to host a home final.
The Raiders are on the road for the next fortnight and travel to Brookvale Oval this Saturday to play the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles.
Manly captain Jamie Lyon won’t be participating in what was set to be his final match at Brookvale after a hamstring injury has fast-tracked his retirement.
LAST TIME OUT
The Sea Eagles were beaten comfortably by recent rivals, the Melbourne Storm. Storm winger Vunivalu scored four first-half tries as the Melbourne side cruised to a 38-18 win. Brad Parker scored two tries for the Sea Eagles but has been dropped for the returning Dylan Walker.
Even harsher than Parker’s dropping is the exclusion of Brenko Lee. The winger scored four tries to rescue the Raiders after a woeful first half against the Parramatta Eels. The Green Machine conceded 18 points in the first half after being unable to contain French and Radradra. However, the second half was a different story as the Raiders scored 24 unanswered points to coast to a 28-18 win.
Jordan Rapana v Jorge Taufua
Although Taufua doesn’t run the ball out of defence as much as Rapana, the Tongan international is lethal in attack. Despite only making 17 appearances at club level this season, Taufua is easily the club’s leading try scorer with 12. The Raiders looked vulnerable against the pace and power of Radradra last weekend and struggled with Manu Vatuvei a month before. Manly coach Trent Barrett will be hoping Taufua will be able to cause similar problems.
2016 has been the year of Rapana down in the nation’s capital. His rise from reliable first grader to possible Kiwi representative epitomises the transformation occurring at the club. Rapana has scored 15 tries and set up a further seven, but his work rate in carrying the ball out of defence is one of his biggest assets. The winger averages close to 14 carries per game and runs close to 140 meters a match.
Manly welcome back Apisai Koroisau and Dylan Walker to the starting side this weekend. Although it does make the team more dangerous in attack, the Sea Eagles are trying to snap a three-match losing streak.
The Raiders have won their last eight matches but complacency shouldn’t be an issue. The Eels gave the Raiders an almighty scare last weekend and Ricky Stuart would make sure the side are ready for Manly this weekend. The return of Josh Hodgson certainly helps the Green Machine’s cause.
Raiders by 14.
Sea Eagles: 1 Tom Trbojevic 2 Jorge Taufua 3 Lewis Brown 4 Dylan Walker 5 Brayden Wiliame 6 Matthew Wright 7 Daly Cherry-Evans 8 Addin Fonua-Blake 9 Apisai Koroisau 10 Nate Myles 11 Martin Taupau 12 Jamie Buhrer 13 Jake Trbojevic Interchange: 14 Matt Parcell 15 Joshua Starling 16 Frank Winterstein 17 Siosia Vave 18 Blake Leary
Raiders: 1 Jack Wighton 2 Edrick Lee 3 Jarrod Croker 4 Joseph Leilua 5 Jordan Rapana 6 Blake Austin 7 Aidan Sezer 8 Paul Vaughan 9 Josh Hodgson 10 Shannon Boyd 11 Josh Papalii 12 Elliot Whitehead 13 Iosia Soliola Interchange: 14 Kurt Baptiste 15 Luke Bateman 16 Clay Priest 17 Joseph Tapine 18 Brenko Lee 19 Shaun Fensom