NRL Preview Round 27: Sharks Vs Raiders

The Raiders season is potentially on the line with their top 8 aspirations hinging on other results and a match with the resurgent Sharks to finish off the 2023 NRL regular season in style.

MATCHDAY NEWS

MATCHDAY SCHEDULE

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Vs Canberra Raiders
Venue: PointsBet Stadium
Date: Sunday September 3, 4:05pm

MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS

Sharks: 1. Connor Tracey 2. Sione Katoa 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Siosifa Talakai 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Braydon Trindall 7. Nicho Hynes 8. Toby Rudolf 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Braden Hamlin-Uele 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Cameron McInnes 14. Jack Williams 15. Royce Hunt 16. Thomas Hazelton 17. Matt Moylan 18. Kayal Iro 19. Mawene Hiroti 20. Oregon Kaufusi 21. Jesse Colquhoun 22. Daniel Atkinson

Raiders: 1. Jordan Rapana 2. Sebastian Kris 3. Jack Wighton 4. Matthew Timoko 5. Nick Cotric 6. Matt Frawley 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Emre Guler9. Zac Woolford 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Corey Horsburgh 14. Tom Starling 15. Ata Mariota 16. Jarrod Croker 17. Hohepa Puru 18. Pasami Saulo 19. Albert Hopoate 20. Trey Mooney 21. Danny Levi 22. James Schiller

Referee: Grant Atkins

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MATCHDAY PREVIEW

The last match of the NRL regular season will be finishing with a bang. The Sharks will be looking to secure a top-six finish, while the Raiders can also secure a home final with a win, but a loss may see them drop out of the eight altogether.

Since the round 20 bye, the Raiders have lost four of six matches, with wins coming against cellar dwellers the Tigers and Bulldogs. The form guide has been very un-Raiders like in 2023. In recent seasons Ricky Stuart’s teams have somewhat burst down the straight like a Melbourne Cup winner hitting the final 100 metres. This season however there simply hasn’t been any signs that the Raiders team we saw for the middle portion of the season is going to return.

To make matters even worse, the Raiders have lost Josh Papali’i for the season while the suspended Corey Horsburgh will only play again if they make the Grand Final. Both are huge losses with Horsburgh especially having a breakout season as one of the standout middle forwards in the competition.

Raiders fans might also find some solace if it was played in front of a packed-out home crowd at GIO Stadium, but they will be making the trek the Shire where their away record will give shivers down the spine of most ardent fans. Round 9 was the last time the Raiders won away from home – and even then, it was at a neutral ground for both teams. With six away wins total this season it makes a win at Cronulla on Sunday even more difficult.

Jack Wighton has come into the centres with Stuart preferring the halves combination of Frawley and Fogarty in an interesting shuffle. With the Sharks scoring 26 or more points for three weeks straight up until last week the Raiders will simply have to find a way to score more if they are a chance at winning. Whether that combination is going to produce more attack remains a big question mark.

The Sharks could have kept their top-four chances alive with a victory last week but were comprehensively beaten by the red-hot Knights and will now look to close out the regular season with a win to lock in a home elimination final.

Nicho Hynes is a huge inclusion for the hosts after missing last week and the Sharks home crowd will be confident in another Nicho masterclass. The Raiders have given up the sixth most points in the competition and that only gets worse away from Canberra. On form the Sharks backline could be in for a feeding frenzy.

The other aspect of this matchup that the Sharks will feel confident about is taking on a forward pack that hasn’t been as strong as prior seasons, missing two of its big intimidators in Horsburgh and Papali’i. The Sharks forwards have noticeably stepped up in the last month ripping into defensive lines for solid metres and stinging runners with staunch defensive resolve.

It is hard to see anything but a Sharks victory this round, with the boys from Cronulla simply matching up outstandingly with all of the Raiders shortcomings. Surprisingly though, the Raiders have won the last nine matchups against the Sharks, which is an outstanding, if not unexpected statistic. There is also one thing the Raiders may have that cannot be measured, quantified, or known – desperation.

The desperation to keep their season alive and play finals football may be the x-factor that gives the Raiders a chance. It’s also that type of desperation that rugby league all-time great games are built on. We could be in for another one this week in the final game of the competition before finals kicks off.

LAST TEN MATCHES

Sharks 1, Raiders 9

MATCHDAY PREDICTION

Sharks by 12 points.

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