Todd Warren previews Raiders vs Storm in a top eight clash in what looks to be miserable conditions in Canberra.
Canberra got a 22-16 win over a struggling Dragons teams last week. They looked great in the first half but their second half was not so good with conceding 16 points and not putting any of their own on the scoreboard. That win was their first since they beat the Tigers 14-6 in round five.
Melbourne played one of the best games in recent memory last week when they beat the back to back champs the Roosters 27-25 in golden point. The last seven minutes of regulation was absolute insanity with two tries with clutch conversions before the Roosters got a penalty goal and a field goal in the last two minutes before Ryan Papenhuyzen slotted a field goal of his own to tie it up, with Cam Smith kicking the winning penalty goal in golden point after a brain snap from Jake Friend right in front of the posts. Melbourne have won two in a row and four of their last five.
Big changes. Sia Soliola is out after a brutal facial fracture and Emre Guler is out with an ankle injury. They join Luke Bateman and Corey Horsburgh on the sidelines as Dunamis Lui starts at prop with Josh Papalii. Joseph Tapine starts at lock with Ryan Sutton named on the bench although that could change again. Curtis Scott is out of the 17 with Jordan Rapana named on the bench. Kai O’Donnell makes his debut from the bench.
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker (c) 4. Michael Oldfield 5. Baily Simonsson 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Siliva Havili 15. Kai O’Donnell 16. Ryan Sutton 17. Jordan Rapana
Cameron Munster is a chance to return early from a calf injury but Suliasi Vunivalu is out with a hamstring injury. Ryley Jacks and Jahrome Hughes have been named to start in the halves but last week saw Cameron Smith play at halfback with Jacks on the bench and Brandon Smith at hooker, so we’ll have to wait for final team lists to be sure.
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Marion Seve 3. Justin Olam 4. Paul Momirovski 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Ryley Jacks 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith (c) 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tino Faasuamaleaui 16. Tom Eisenhuth 17. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
The Raiders have beaten the Storm the last three matchups but Melbourne have a slight edge with six wins of the last ten. A Storm win will mean win number 300 for Cameron Smith, which is probably the biggest individual achievement in the game we have ever seen and will likely never be seen again.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Great matchup here with perhaps the GOAT Cam Smith lining up against another of the best hookers in the game in Josh Hodgson. Both of these guys are the key for their sides with Hodgson being very dangerous out of dummy half and Cam Smith possibly the best player on the park in every jersey numbered 7-13. Depending on the status of Munster we could again see Smith start at half but for the last few seasons Smith usually plays hooker in defence but half in attack anyway. There’s a reason he has played over 400 games and achieved everything in the sport, his vision for the game is second to none while still rock solid in defence.
Raiders are struggling a bit and look like a different team compared to when they made in to the grand final last year. They have been smashed by injuries and the John Bateman situation has hurt them most of all. I expect Melbourne to be too strong, especially if Cameron Munster is a late inclusion.
Storm by 16
Date: Saturday July 11
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra