Andrew Pelechaty previews the Saturday afternoon game between Canberra Raiders and North Queensland Cowboys at GIO Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After a brilliant 6-2 start, Canberra faced the top two teams (and last year’s preliminary finalists) the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney in consecutive weeks. While Canberra lost both games, they showed their potential with spirited performances: losing to the Roosters 30-24 and Souths 16-12. The Souths game was at times an old fashioned battle. Trailing 6-4 after a scoreless first half, Cody Walker scored Souths’ first try in the 51st minute before Sam Williams edged Canberra ahead 12-10 with 20 minutes left. Mawene Hiroti put Souths back in front with nine minutes left which the Raiders couldn’t answer. Luckily they have a handful of “winnable” games coming up to consolidate their top four spot. This game caps off a Bruce Stadium double header, with the ACT Brumbies playing the Bulls (South Africa) in Super Rugby on Friday night.
North Queensland Cowboys
Following a slow start, North Queensland have gradually improved, competitive against Souths in Magic Round and beating Parramatta 17-10 in Townsville (tries to Matt Scott, Kyle Feldt and Tom Opacic). The Cowboys join a crush of teams just one win outside the top eight.
A huge inclusion for Canberra, with Joe Tapine returning. Sebastian Kris is the unlucky one to miss out.
Canberra Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Nick Cotric 5. Michael Oldfield 6. Jack Wighton 7. Sam Williams 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Ryan Sutton 14. Siliva Havili 15. Joseph Tapine 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Corey Horsburgh 18. Aidan Sezer 19. Emre Guler 20. Sebastian Kris 21. Royce Hunt
North Queensland Cowboys
Gideon Gela-Mosby replaces the injured Ben Hampton, while Jake Granville will play after beating his judiciary charge.
North Queensland Cowboys squad: 1. Jordan Kahu 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Tom Opacic 5. Gideon Gela-Mosby 6. John Asiata 7. Michael Morgan 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Mitchell Dunn 16. Scott Bolton 17. Francis Molo 18. Corey Jensen 19. Shane Wright 20. Josh McGuire 21. Jake Clifford
HEAD TO HEAD
Canberra and North Queensland met in round four (April 6), with the Raiders winning 30-12 in Townsville. The final score betrayed the tight contest, with Canberra leading 18-12 with 10 minutes left before tries to captain Jarrod Croker and Jordan Rapana (his second for the night) sealed it. The Cowboys’ last trip to Bruce Stadium didn’t end well, with the Raiders winning 38-12 in round 18 last year. Unfortunately for Canberra, an injury to Croker hurt the Raiders in the home stretch, winning just two of their last seven games.
Ryan Sutton v Jason Taumalolo . Part of North Queensland’s improvement is down to JT’s return. Since his comeback, the Cowboys have beaten Gold Coast, Parramatta and were competitive against Souths. Taumalolo has averaged 65 post-contact metres in five games, with a 92.4 per cent tackle efficiency and nearly 1000 total running metres.
Ryan Sutton – part of Canberra’s new English contingent – has been an aggressive part of the Raiders’ improved defence, playing all 10 games. The former Wigan Warrior has a 90.5 per cent tackle efficiency, nearly 1000 total running metres, and 324.8 post-contact metres. No doubt Sutton will be fired up by another Bruce Stadium experience, which could tip this contest Canberra’s way.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sat 25th May
Venue: GIO Stadium Canberra
WHO WILL WIN?
Comfortably sitting in the top four a few weeks ago, Canberra have to start winning again to keep in touch with Souths, the Roosters and Melbourne. While honourable losses against the top teams is cromulent for now, Canberra have to beat North Queensland if they are to capitalise on their finals potential. Expect Canberra to entertain the Bruce faithful with a big win.
Canberra by 18