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Match Preview: Raiders v Bulldogs

Zachary Gates

Priest,C 1731961

The Canberra Raiders will head to Sydney for the first time this season to square off with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Saturday evening.

Perched in seventh on the ladder, the Raiders are eyeing a return to the winners circle to further entrench themselves in the top eight, while a ninth-placed Bulldogs outfit is also looking to bounce back from a loss in search of a return to the top half of the ladder.

The weekend was a matter of both sides coughing up three-game winning streaks, a golden-point penalty goal handing Manly a gripping win over the men in green before the Bulldogs were pipped at the post by an embattled Tigers outfit.

One of the hottest talking points ahead of Saturday’s clash is the power behind both the Raiders’ and Bulldogs’ forward packs, two of the biggest and most metre-hungry cargo ships in the competition.

In an indication of how significant a hand the battle of the forwards will play in Saturday’s clash, a number of Raiders and Bulldogs big men have earned Test selection ahead of the final weekend of action before representative round, while a number of others are expected to be named when the Kiwi and Samoa squads are named on Sunday.

Mal Meninga named forwards Josh Papalii, Shannon Boyd and David Klemmer in a 20-man Kangaroos squad to meet the Kiwis, while Elliott Whitehead, Josh Hodgson and James Graham earned call-ups to an England side set to face Samoa.

There is also a possibility that Junior Paulo will don Samoa colours next week and that Joe Tapine, Sam Kasiano and Greg Eastwood will run out for New Zealand.

Last Time

A second-half surge catapulted the Raiders to a 32-20 win over the Bulldogs when the two sides last met in Round 12 of last season at GIO Stadium.

Having trailed 14-10 at half-time, the hosts ran in four tries in the second stanza to Canterbury’s one in a game in which Tapine dotted down twice.

The Raiders also emerged victorious when they last crossed swords with the Bulldogs in Sydney, steamrolling Des Hasler’s Dogs 22-8 at Belmore as captain Jarrod Croker crossed for two four-pointers.

The Raiders and Bulldogs will meet at ANZ Stadium on Saturday for the first time since 2011.

Watch highlights from the last time the Raiders and Bulldogs clashed in the video below.

Key Matchups

Jarrod Croker v Brenko Lee

Two former partners-in-crime will butt heads on Saturday when the Green Machine’s skipper lines up against former Raider Brenko Lee.

Lee often slotted into left wing last season when cousin Edrick Lee was injured, playing outside Croker. The two backs had nothing short of a field day when Brenko last donned Canberra colours, the former Raider crossing for four tries and going within a grass blade of snagging a fifth after brushing the chalk with his left turquoise boot. Croker set up three of them and snaffled a four-pointer of his own en route to breaking the Raiders’ record for most points scored in a season.

Lee will be out to make amends after a torrid finish to the game on the weekend. He was sent to the bin in the dying stages of the Bulldogs’ clash with the Tigers for holding back second-rower Chris Lawrence who was in pursuit of a James Tedesco grubber. The joint-venture club made no mistake in exposing Canterbury’s right-edge defence, winger Kevin Naqaima collecting a deflection to clinch a 77th-minute try to win the game.

Blake Austin v Josh Reynolds

News broke this week that Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds will join the Tigers on a four-year deal from the start of next season, casting a spotlight on the playmaker ahead of his matchup on Saturday with Raiders Number 6 Blake Austin.

With both forward packs expected to boulder their respective sides into quality field territory throughout the game, which side does a better job of capitalising in attack shapes as a crucial aspect in the outcome of the contest. It means Austin’s potent passing and running games will have to shine through on the Raiders’ electric right edge, while Reynolds will have to be at his energetic best.

With the opening match of State of Origin just around the corner, both pivots are looking to turn in big games to impress Blues coach Laurie Daley.

Junior Paulo v James Graham

The Samoan superhuman and the British bulldog both fare as crucial cogs in their sides soldiering wheels ahead of Saturday’s clash. The two front rowers are central to gaining metres and absorbing plenty in defence.

Paulo had a quiet outing in the Raiders’ narrow loss to Manly last Friday night, but reminded the masses the week prior of the enormous impact he can have at prop. He was one of the best on the park in the Raiders’ gritty win over the Warriors at home, churning out 185 running metres and making 19 tackles.

Meanwhile, Graham garnered 161 running metres and laid 39 tackles in his side’s loss to the Tigers on Sunday. Plenty of what the Bulldogs’ skipper offers cannot be measured by metrics, a fact most notable in his instruction to the troops and extraordinary passion, but a few barnstorming Paulo hit-ups early in the match could tame the ball of passion.

Quote of the Week

“The good thing about those guys (big forwards) is they challenge us. It brings out the best in opposition sides because you have to be good. You have to be clinical against those sides.”

Sia Soliola previews the match. 

Head-to-Head

The Raiders have won the last two times the sides have met, but the Bulldogs hold the upper hand overall. From the 66 times Canberra and Canterbury have locked horns, the Bulldogs have claimed 38 wins while the Raiders have notched 28.

Team Lists

As of Tuesday, April 25.

Canberra Raiders Canterbury Bulldogs
1. Jack Wighton 1    Brett Morris
2. Nick Cotric 2    Kerrod Holland
3. Jarrod Croker (C) 3    Josh Morris
4. Joey Leilua 4    Brenko Lee
5. Jordan Rapana 5    Marcelo Montoya
6. Blake Austin 6    Josh Reynolds
7. Aidan Sezer 7    Moses Mbye
8. Junior Paulo 8    Aiden Tolman
9. Josh Hodgson  9    Michael Lichaa
10. Shannon Boyd 10  James Graham
11. Josh Papalii 11  Josh Jackson
12. Elliott Whitehead 12  Greg Eastwood
13. Joe Tapine 13  David Klemmer
14. Adam Clydsdale 14  Sam Kasiano
15. Luke Bateman 15  Danny Fualalo
16. Clay Priest 16  Adam Elliott
17. Sia Soliola 17  Raymond Faitala-Mariner
18. Dunamis Lui 19  Francis Tualau
19. Scott Sorensen 20  Matt Frawley
20. Makahesi Makatoa 21  Reimis Smith
21. Lachlan Croker 23  Will Hopoate