Andrew Pelechaty previews the blockbuster top four clash between the Raiders and Sydney Roosters in Canberra.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Canberra (13-6) briefly entered the top two after belting the Warriors 46-12 in Auckland last Friday night, leading 30-0 at halftime. It was an impressive win considering the shorter turnaround and travel from Penrith to Auckland. Canberra scored eight tries (with a double to Bailey Simonsson) to celebrate Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad’s return home and his 24th birthday. After a tough night in Penrith in round 19, Jarrod Croker kicked 7/8, handing the last conversion to Sia Soliola. It was Canberra’s fourth straight win. Sunday’s game is a big one for captain Jarrod Croker, celebrating his 250th in the lime green. In a climate where loyalty is almost dead, to play 250 games for one club is rarer than Super Nintendo Chalmers being nice to Principal Skinner.
The Roosters (13-6) – as expected – destroyed the poor old Titans 58-6 at the SCG to take second place back from Canberra. Easts helped themselves to ten tries, with a first half hat-trick for Brett Morris and doubles for James Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell. It was the Roosters’ third straight win, proving they’re finally out of their post-Origin slump and ready for September.
Some big inclusions, with Nick Cotric returning after his three week suspension, BJ Leilua named in the reserves after his recovering from his neck injury, and Ryan Sutton also returning. Michael Oldfield makes way for Cotric, and Emre Guler moves to the reserves for Sutton.
Canberra Raiders’ squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Nick Cotric 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Iosia Soliola 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Siliva Havili 15. Dunamis Lui 16. Corey Horsburgh 17. Ryan Sutton 18. Sam Williams 19. Joseph Leilua 20. Emre Guler 21. Michael Oldfield
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves returns from suspension, Zane Tetevano shifting back to the bench and Lindsay Collins drops to the reserves.
Sydney Roosters’ squad: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Sam Verrills 10. Isaac Liu 11. Angus Crichton 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Victor Radley 14. Nat Butcher 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Poasa Faamausili 17. Sitili Tupouniua 18. Lindsay Collins 19. Drew Hutchison 20. Matt Ikuvalu 21. Lachlan Lam.
HEAD TO HEAD
The last battle between the two was a Magic Round thriller at Suncorp Stadium. The Roosters raced to a 24-6 halftime lead (with two tries and four goals to Latrell Mitchell). A converted James Tedesco try pushed it further to 30-6, and looked like continuing Canberra’s poor record at Lang Park. Then the Raiders remembered they were in the Itchy lot, with tries to Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jack Wighton and Michael Oldfield getting them within six. Canberra’s final push – that could have sent the game into Golden Point – was stopped by a forward pass, the Roosters hanging on 30-24. While the Roosters have dominated the head-to-head 23-12 since 1998, Canberra beat them last outing at Bruce Stadium: 14-12 last year.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad vs James Tedesco
Celebrating his 24th birthday last weekend, CNK continues to excel at the Raiders: almost invincible under the high ball and scoring 10 tries in 19 games. He’s an absolute superstar and beloved by Raiders fans, who will be hoping he has another big game on Sunday.
Tedesco is in equally ravaging form at the Roosters, with 12 tries from 16 games and playing all three Origins for NSW. While the Raiders have the second best defensive record in 2019, if they give Tedesco some room, they could be in trouble.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 11th August.
Venue: GIO Stadium Canberra.
WHO WILL WIN?
Part of Canberra’s resurgence has been their 6-3 record at GIO Stadium, fired up by the Viking Clap to make Bruce a chilly fortress again. The confidence gained from their huge win in Auckland should see them just squeeze out the Roosters and move closer to a cherished home final.
Canberra by two.