The Canberra Raiders NYC team will this week travel to Eden Park to take on the New Zealand Warriors at 12:40pm.
Coach Mick Mantelli has named an unchanged side to the team that defeated Manly two weeks ago, with the three players from the u20’s who participated in last weekend’s State of Origin game good to go for the weekend trip to New Zealand.
The unchanged side means talented centre Jack Creith remains sidelined with injury and Kilu Pangai and Tevita Pangai Junior remain out.
Co-Captains Patrick Mago and Luke Bateman played alongside fellow Raiders Brenko Lee and Anthony Milford in the 30-8 loss to New South Wales. All three under 20s players pulled up from the bruising encounter and will play this week.
Luke Bateman was one of the shining lights for the young Maroons, and showed why he is so highly rated at the Raiders by scoring in the 70th minute in a rare highlight for Queensland.
Canberra’s return to form in recent weeks could be put down to a constant emphasis on defence, and despite playing with a growing injury toll since the season started the side hasn’t used it as an excuse when their form dipped, and they are now reaping the benefits of their hard work.
Their past two games have seen just 46 points scored against them. This was after calls from Mantelli for the side to stick together after conceding a total of 90 points against the Panthers and Knights.
The return of Brett Solomon helped add some muscle to a forward pack that was lacking size and gave up 15 kilos to the Storm’s forward pack two rounds ago.
Combined with the improved efforts of Scott Doyle and Trent Schubach, Canberra has been able to dominate field position, this repeat pressure has led to tries against both the Storm and Eagles and if it continues this week.
One player who will be looking to claim his stake for senior selection is Brenko Lee. The talented centre has had a quiet start to 2014, but his performance against the Sea Eagles a few weeks ago showed why Raiders fans should be excited about the younger cousin of Edrick.
He had a hand in three tries and showcased his short kicking ability, which led to an impressive try to Lachlan Hurst. If he is up and about in this game, the Raiders will be more than a chance of winning.
Meanwhile coach Mantelli has looked to have found a solid back three with Jake Wheeler, Ricky Garard and Hurst all being solid contributors in recent weeks.
Garard in particular has taken his game to another level after Mantelli said he wanted more out of the talented fullback. He responded last round in emphatic fashion with a strong running game which bagged him two tries, and being solid under the high ball.
3 Keys to victory:
1) The Raiders will need to be physical from the start. They showed against the Sea Eagles that if they can match a side physically then they can control a game through their skilful backline.
2) They will need to be good under the high ball. When they Raiders were struggling earlier in the season they were conceding a number of tries through struggling with the bomb and crossfield kick. In recent rounds this hasn’t been a problem for the young Raiders.
3) Kicking goals is another key to victory. When Mago was on with the boot against the Sea Eagles it made a difference to the momentum of the game. At one stage both sides had scored the same amount of tries, but it was the Raiders who had the advantage through Mago’s laser-like boot.