The Canberra Raiders will host the Melbourne Storm at GIO Stadium on Friday night.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Canberra Raiders defeated the Gold Coast Titans in round 1 and looked very solid in doing so. In a scrappy game at times, the ‘green machine’ maintained their defensive intensity for the full 80 minutes as they held a team scoreless for the first time since 2013. English import John Bateman looked very solid as he registered 36 tackles and 150+ metres, as well as Jack Wighton who had a successful first stint in the halves. They will now turn their attention to a solid Storm side.
They defeated the Brisbane Broncos in typical Melbourne Storm fashion, they were professional and superior in every aspect across the park. Cameron Smith continued to show why he is touted as one of the best players to ever live as he recorded 49 tackles and was comprehensive in the victory, fullback Jahrome Hughes proved that he is more than ready to fill Billy Slater’s boots with a scintillating performance where he scored a try and ran for a whopping for 224 metres. Melbourne will be fresh after an eight-day turnaround.
Canberra will welcome back international winger Jordan Rapana this week after injuring his shoulder last November whilst playing for New Zealand, it was expected Rapana would miss until at least round 6, however he will take his place in the side this week replacing rookie Bailey Simonsson. Dunamis Lui has been named to start after starting from the bench last week, as Iosia Soliola will be on the interchange bench.
Raiders 21-man squad: 1 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2 Nick Cotric 3 Jarrod Croker 4 Joseph Leilua 5 Jordan Rapana 6 Jack Wighton 7 Aidan Sezer 8 Josh Papalii 9 Josh Hodgson 10 Sia Soliola 11 Joe Tapine 12 Elliott Whitehead 13 John Bateman Interchange: 14 Siliva Havili 15 Ryan Sutton 16 Iosia Sloliola 17 Corey Horsburgh Reserves: 18 Sam Williams 19 JJ Collins 20 Bailey Simonsson 21 Jack Murchie
The only change from the Storm side from last week is that Tom Eisenhuth will be missing for some time after fracturing his Larynx, he will replaced on the bench by Patrick Kaufusi.
Melbourne Storm 21-man squad: 1 Jahrome Hughes 2 Suliasi Vunivalu 3 William Chambers 4 Curtis Scott 5 Joshua Addo-Carr 6 Cameron Munster 7 Brodie Croft 8 Jesse Bromwich 9 Cameron Smith (c) 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11 Felise Kaufusi 12 Kenny Bromwich 13 Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14 Brandon Smith 15 Christian Welch 16 Tui Kamikamica 17 Patrick Kaufusi. Reserves: 18 Marion Seve 19 Albert Vete 20 Ryan Papenhuyzen 21 Billy Walters
HEAD TO HEAD
Melbourne have dominated the proceedings between these two sides, they have won the four games. Last season the sides only met once as Melbourne flogged the Raiders 44-10 in a one sided contest, the Raiders last defeated Melbourne in 2016 in Canberra which was defensive masterclass as they held the Storm to just eight points, they will be looking to prove that their defence is up to that level again on Friday.
This is a battle of the two best and who will come on top, it is Josh Hodgson vs Cameron Smith. Both have the reputation for being the two best hookers in the world and this clash will come down to who can control proceedings better. Hodgson was huge in the Raiders victory last Sunday as he recorded 34 tackles, kicked for 192 metres and set up a try with a beautifully place grubber for prop Iosia Soliola to score. Smith was equally as huge as his influence alone was enough to lead his side to a prolific first round victory. Both rakes are internationals, and both control the play for their respected squads. Hodgson takes a huge load of Aidan Sezer and Jack Wighton’s shoulders with the Englishman doing a lot of the play making including his crafty kicking game, Smith has the equal effect for Melbourne as Cameron Munster and Brodie Croft both play to their strengths a little more as Smith is the chief organiser.
On top of the hooker battle, Melbourne have a huge pack including man mountains in Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Jesse Bromwich and must play on the back of them as they will look to overpower the Raiders pack. Canberra will need to same defensive intensity as they had last week and will need Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua ‘Leipana’ to be back to their best as they always seem to get their side out of danger with huge runs coming out of their red-zone.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 22nd of March
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 6:00pm AEDT
WHO WILL WIN?
Both sides had impressive first hit-outs and are both 1-0, it has the feel of a heavyweight clash. Canberra had to travel to the Gold Coast on Sunday and only have a five-day turnaround, while Melbourne have had an eight-day turnaround to work with. It is simple, defence wins you games and that will be the focus here, Melbourne are the masters of the arm-wrestle, but it wont be as easy for them as many may think… Melbourne should win, but Canberra are capable of an upset.
Melbourne by 2