NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Titans

Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans on Sunday at 6:30pm at GIO Stadium Canberra

After securing their first win for the year against the Knights last weekend, the Canberra Raiders will look to celebrate their first home match of the year by continuing this winning run against the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday evening.

In a see-sawing match at Hunter Stadium, the Green Machine displayed promising form but more importantly an impressive never-say-die attitude against the Knights.

It is evident that the side is playing with an enhanced passion in the lime green jersey and an unyielding commitment to each other.

“It was unfortunate to lose in Round 1 but it was great to bounce back and get a win over the Knights,” Assistant Coach Matt Parish said. “One thing that has remained the same in both games though is the passion and commitment of the side.

“That’s something that we should be proud of and something that we will be looking to continue for the rest of the season.”

Unfortunately, Ricky Stuart was unable to name the same side from that stirring victory due to a pair of forced changes.

Star back-rowers Shaun Fensom and Josh Papalii will be absent from the clash with Fensom suspended for a week and an ankle injury sidelining Papalii for 4-6 weeks.

Their absence provides exciting youngsters Jarrad Kennedy and Paul Vaughan with an opportunity in the starting side, something the talented duo is planning to make the most of.

“It’s unlucky that Papa has been injured, you don’t wish that upon anyone, but it’s a good opportunity for me to start and I’m looking to make the most of it,” Kennedy said. “Papa and Shaun are two of our bigger guns and get through a lot of work so I’d like to step up this weekend and take on some of that responsibility.”

The new additions to the side are Matt McIlwrick, who will play off the bench as a back-rower, and David Shillington. It will be a momentous occasion for Shillington who will play his 100th match for the Raiders in front of a strong home crowd.

“It’s something that I’m really proud,” Shillington said. “Notching up 100 games for the one club is a great achievement. I haven’t enjoyed missing the opening two games but to come back in our first home game of the year and mark it with a milestone like this is really special.”

Canberra is traditionally difficult to beat at home however the side is wary of a Titans outfit that will be looking to make amends for a disappointing performance against the Wests Tigers in Round 2.The fact of the matter is that the Raiders can ill-afford to take any side featuring Test forwards Greg Bird and Nate Myles lightly.

Key Matchups:

Jack Wighton v Albert Kelly

After a solid opening to his first NRL game at five-eighth, Wighton improved remarkably in the Round 2 victory over the Knights.

Wighton created two tries and delivered a masterful kicking game which belied his inexperience. The Country Origin representative shared the kicking duties evenly with Captain Terry Campese and his nine kicks, including an excellent 40/20, contributed to 331 metres.

The Orange CYMS junior will again look to improve as an NRL standard number six this weekend in front of his home crowd and the side that he made his debut against back in 2012.

Titans halfback Albert Kelly has been electric in the opening two rounds of the competition. His instinctive and naturally blessed attacking ability will need to carefully monitored by the Raiders.

Wighton’s match-up with Kelly could prove highly influential in the outcome of the contest, with the pair seen as the attacking sparks in their respective side’s halves combinations.

Brett White v Nate Myles

Representative forwards, White and Myles, are one of the most respected leaders for their respective sides. Through their actions and words, the pair has a highly influential impact on their team mates.

White was inspirational in the win over the Knights. The premiership winning front-rower ran for 107 metres and compiled an impressive 30 hard-hitting tackles.

Despite Gold Coast’s heavy defeat, Myles never gave up for the Titans. He made just under 100 metres and accumulated 41 tackles.

A proud and passionate player, Myles will look to make amends this Sunday, something which White is wary of.

Expect a big game from the Canberra bookend.

Joel Edwards v Greg Bird

Edwards has been at his fiery best in the opening two games of the year and his clash with the equally fiery Greg Bird shapes as a great exhibition of top quality second-row play.

Bird is one of the best in the business and with Edwards stating that he wishes to make his representative debut in 2014, he has no better player to test his wares against than the NSW and Australian representative.

A big game from Edwards is necessary for the Raiders given that Fensom and Papalii will be absent from the clash. Edwards will need to step up and lead the way forward for the younger team members such as Kennedy, Vaughan and McIlwrick.

Similar to Myles, Bird is as passionate and proud as they come and will be looking to rectify the disastrous result in Round 2.

Stat Attack:

Last 3 results:

- Gold Coast defeated Canberra 36-0 at Robina Stadium in March 17 2013

- Gold Coast defeated Canberra 38-26 at GIO Stadium Canberra in July 15 2012

- Canberra defeated Gold Coast 24-12 at Robina Stadium in March 10 2012

Record against the Titans:

In a total of 13 games against the Titans, Canberra has won 5 games and lost 8.

Personal Milestones:

David Shillington will notch up his 100th game for the Raiders in this encounter. Shillington will make his return from a rib injury from the interchange bench.

They said it:

Matt Parish: “It’s unfortunate that we’ll be without Papa and Shaun but it’s a great thing for the club to have such capable replacements coming in. Vaughan and Kennedy get their opportunity to start and Matt McIlwrick was one of the best players for Mounties in their win on the weekend. They’re some players that have done the job before for the Raiders.”

http://www.raiders.com.au/news/2014/03/18/round_3_team_talk_with_matt_parish_0.html  

Anthony Milford: “Vaughan will do well this weekend in the starting side. He scored a great try last week, it’s not often you see a front-rower pushing up and scoring tries like that, it’s usually fullbacks or halves. To see Paul make that extra effort was great for the boys to see.”

http://www.raiders.com.au/news/2014/03/18/play_of_the_week_anthony_milford.html

David Shillington: “We had a great win last weekend but the Titans will be looking to bounce back and I know that they will be a tough opponent for us especially in the forwards with Nate Myles and Greg Bird.”

Jarrad Kennedy: “Papa and Shaun are two of our bigger guns and get through a lot of work so I’d like to step up this weekend and take on that role. I haven’t played many games at Canberra Stadium either so I’m looking forward to getting out there in front of a big home crowd.”

http://www.raiders.com.au/news/2014/03/19/kennedy_gets_opportunity_in_starting_side.html