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Match Preview: Raiders v Titans

Zac Gates

Clydsdale,A 1731981

The Raiders have an eye on registering back-to-back wins for the first time this year ahead of their clash with the Gold Coast at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

As the Raiders’ recent one-point loss to the Broncos showed, road trips north of the Tweed don’t faze this Canberra outfit despite the Raiders’ ugly Queensland history.

Blake Austin waved his wand late in the second half to lock scores at 12 apiece, before a Jordan Kahu field goal buried the match.

To go within a solitary point in a Suncorp Stadium furnace brimming with a Broncos-heavy crowd of almost 30,000 was a commendable effort.

The Green Machine will be looking to replicate the attacking prowess that saw them overcome a plucky Parramatta outfit 30-18 at GIO Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Electric right-centre Joey Leilua, who crossed for one of the hosts’ five tries, is set to make his 150th NRL appearance on Saturday.

Meanwhile, second-rower Elliott Whitehead will return from a one-match suspension as the Raiders look to keep the Titans to just one win in 2017.

Prop Junior Paul said the tightness of the competition means games like the Gold Coast clash carry a lot of weight.

“That’s our goal for this week,” Paulo said.

“After a solid win last week we’re looking to get two in a row now. With the competition being so close it’s going to be a crucial game for us.”

Last Time

The Raiders clinched a 30-22 win over the Titans when the two sides last met.

Canberra led 18-10 at half-time in the Round 16 clash at Cbus Super Stadium, a match in which captain Jarrod Croker bagged two tries.

Watch highlights from the last time the Raiders and Titans met in the video below.

Key Matchups

Joey Leilua v Dale Copley

Leilua and Dale Copley are two of the NRL’s most talented centres, meaning this matchup shapes as a crucial aspect of the game.

The Titans centre will have his work cut out for him if Leilua marks his 150th appearance with his scintillating best. The milestone man has carried his sizzling-hot 2016 form into the opening five rounds of this season, making vital yardage out of defence and breaking tackles for fun. Since making the move to the nation’s capital, the 25-year-old has joined forces with winger Jordan Rapana to form arguably the most potent backline combination in the NRL. Leilua traded his destructive best for his deft best to fool the Eels’ defence on Saturday, popping a no-look pass to send Rapana hurtling down the wing, who linked with Blake Austin for the home side’s second four-pointer.

Since signing with the Titans for season 2017, Copley has also caused headaches for opposition backlines. In the two games he has played for the Gold Coast this year, the former Broncos and Roosters back has had no trouble finding the white line. The 25-year-old crossed for a pair of tries in his club debut against the Cowboys in Round 4 and snared another against the Warriors on the weekend.

Both are nothing short of attacking weapons, so which of the two does a better job of containing the other in defence could play a major hand in the outcome of Saturday’s match.

Junior Paulo v Ryan James

Paulo is set to cross swords with opposition prop Ryan James in what also fares as a crucial matchup. Both are integral to their sides gaining territory and the intimidation their forward packs carry. Adding extra spice to the recipe is the two front-rowers will potentially lock horns again early next month in Country v City, the Raiders’ wrecking ball for City and James for Country.

Paulo turned in a very strong performance against his former club on the weekend, garnering 130 metres. A mammoth 43 of those were post-contact metres as his tree-trunk thighs piggybacked Parramatta players up the middle.

Ashley Taylor v Aidan Sezer

There is always tension in the air if a player is set to run out against a former club, and that is exactly what halfback Aidan Sezer will do this weekend. The former Titan made his 100th NRL appearance on Saturday, and his matchup with Ashley Taylor is sure to make for another blockbuster encounter.

The outcome of Saturday’s clash will depend largely on which halfback links better with key combinations in attack. Sezer will be looking to use plenty of short-balls in feeding the Raiders’ behemoth forward pack. Streaked with proven centres Copley and Konrad Hurrell and exciting, young fullback Tyronne Roberts-Davis, the Titans’ backline poses a stronger threat than their forwards. So expect Taylor to look to link with his fellow backs in trying to find holes in Canberra’s defence.

Quote of the Week

“We’re obviously a big squad and coming off the back of last year’s season everyone knows how we play now. We’ve gone from being the hunters to the hunted. There’s always going to be that challenge of us trying to maximise our minutes on the field and that’s what we’re trying to do. The Titans boys have been punching out about 60 minutes in their games so it’s going to be a big ask for me and Boydy as well.”

Paulo on whether teams are looking to tire out himself and fellow front-rower Shannon Boyd.

Head-to-Head

The Raiders have won three of their last five games against the Titans, one of which was 56-16 thumping in Round 9 of 2015. Overall, the Raiders have won eight games to the Gold Coast’s 11 from 19 matches since the Titans joined the competition in 2007.

Team Lists

As of Tuesday, April 4. 

Canberra Raiders Gold Coast Titans 
1. Jack Wighton 1. Tyronne Roberts-Davis
2. Nick Cotric 2. Anthony Don
3. Jarrod Croker (C) 3. Dale Copley
4. Joey Leilua 4. Konrad Hurrell
5. Jordan Rapana 5. Daniel Vidot
6. Blake Austin 6. Kane Elgey
7. Aidan Sezer 7. Ash Taylor
8. Junior Paulo 8. Jarrod Wallace
9. Josh Hodgson 9. Ryan Simpkins
10. Shannon Boyd 10. Ryan James (C) 
11. Josh Papalii 11. Kevin Proctor (C) 
12. Elliott Whitehead 12. Chris McQueen
13. Sia Soliola 13. Leivaha Pulu
14. Adam Clydsdale 14. Karl Lawton
15. Luke Bateman 15. Chris Grevsmuhl
16. Clay Priest 16. Max King
17. Joe Tapine 17. Joe Greenwood
18. Dunamis Lui 18. Morgan Boyle
19. Jordan Turner 19. Tyrone Roberts
20. Dave Taylor 20. Paterika Vaivai
21. Lachlan Croker 21. Alexander Brimson
GAME DAY GUIDE: RAIDERS V TITANS