This clash sees the meeting of two sides who would like to put the past week behind them and get back on the field, although for much different reasons. After two close and spiteful clashes last season these two sides will be dying to get stuck into one another again at Lottoland on Saturday night.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
In a season that has been a tipster’s nightmare there has been no side harder to predict than the Sea Eagles. After starting the season with a golden point loss to the Knights Trent Barrett’s men then demolished Parramatta who were highly fancied going into the season. But then backed that performance up by getting belted at home by the previously win-less Rabbitohs, it’s hard to know which Manly side will turn up.
Whilst Manly have been terribly inconsistent the Raiders have been terribly consistent, in fact you could argue the Raiders have carried the same form from last season over to 2018. After suffering numerous heart breaking losses in the final 10 minutes of matches in 2017 the Men in Green have kicked off this year with three losses after leading each game in the final minutes.
Manly have resisted making sweeping changes after last week’s debacle with the only change to their squad being Matthew Wright replacing the ‘luckless’ Jorge Taufua who has a broken collarbone. Jackson Hastings may spend some time in the halves if Lachlan Croker has an off day.
Ricky Stuart has dropped star five-eighth Blake Austin after an indifferent start to the season for the Doonside Roos junior, Austin has been replaced by new recruit Ata Hingano on the bench whilst Joseph Tapine has returned after a hand injury and replaces Liam Knight on the bench.
After facing off twice in season 2017 Manly and Canberra will meet each other for the first time this year, last season saw these sides play out two golden point matches with Manly getting the spoils on both occasions in what were very heated battles.
Canberra will look to continue to do the things that have served them well in games so far this year with their big men Shannon Boyd and Junior Paulo laying a good platform through the middle, the Raiders depth in the front row is thin which has restricted Stuart from having his best two props on the field at the same time which has hurt them. Stuart will also be looking for his play makers to steer his side home if the game is close again going into the final stages, Sam Williams and Aiden Sezer are on notice after the axing of Austin.
Manly will hope to forget about last week’s big loss and repeat their form from the first two rounds of the competition, It’s not secret Manly’s hopes again rest on the shoulders of the Trobjevic brothers and Daly Cherry-Evans who will be eager for a big game after getting caught up in the Sea Eagles salary cap dramas this week. But for Manly the biggest key to victory for them is ball control after turning the ball over continuously last week Barrett will be drumming it into his players to secure possession.
“We need to keep positive and stick together as a team” – Sam Williams
“It’s still early in the season, but everybody’s got to keep their heads up and stay positive” – Nick Cotric
Despite starting the season with just the one win between the two sides Manly and Canberra are two of the best attacking sides so far this year, Manly are ranked 2nd whilst Canberra are ranked 4th.
Sea Eagles: 1 Tom Trbojevic, 2 Matthew Wright, 3 Brad Parker, 4 Brian Kelly, 5 Akuila Uate, 6 Lachlan Croker, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans (c), 8 Addin Fonua-Blake, 9 Apisai Koroisau, 10 Martin Taupau, 11 Joel Thompson, 12 Curtis Sironen, 13 Jake Trbojevic, 14 Jackson Hastings, 15 Shaun Lane, 16 Lloyd Perrett, 17 Kelepi Tanginoa, 18 Lewis Brown, 19 Thomas Wright, 20 Frank Winterstein, 21 Jack Gosiewski
Raiders: 1 Jack Wighton, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Jarrod Croker (c), 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Aiden Sezer, 7 Sam Williams, 8 Iosia Soliola, 9 Siliva Havili, 10 Shannon Boyd, 11 Josh Papalii, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Luke Bateman, 14 Ata Hingano, 15 Junior Paulo, 16 Dunamis Lui, 17 Joseph Tapine, 18 Liam Knight, 19 Blake Austin, 20 Michael Oldfield, 21 Jack Murchie
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 31st of March
Venue: Lottoland, Manly
WHO WILL WIN?
In what is another desperately hard game to predict both sides will be desperate for victory, but unfortunately for raiders fans I expect Manly to use the home crowd to their advantage and gain another close win over the Raiders.