NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Sea Eagles

Canberra Raiders v Manly Sea Eagles

Saturday April 4, 5:05pm, Lavington Sports Ground, Albury

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets!

Coverage: Live on FOXSports1

Referees: Henry Perenara and Gavin Reynolds

Video Referees: Shayne Hayne and Steve Folkes

Three losses in a row: disappointing? Yes.

End of the world? Cause for panic stations? Hell no!

“We’re disappointed to have lost the last three matches but it’s important for us to not drag our heads around along the ground; we’re only four games into the season and we’re a developing side that is only going to improve,” Australian Test forward Josh Papalii said.

“We can’t wait to get out there and turn it around this weekend!”

“They’re a proud squad and were very disappointed with themselves last weekend but it’s only Round 4. We don’t have time to dwell on our disappointment, we’ve just got to keep working hard and getting better,” Coach Ricky Stuart added.

The Canberra Raiders travel down to Albury this Saturday to take on the Manly Sea Eagles in what is a crucial game for both sides.

With just one win each from the opening four rounds, the 12th placed Green Machine and the 13th placed Sea Eagles will both be looking to get back into the winner’s circle in Round 5 and keep track with the rest of the top eight contenders.

There has been just one team change for the Raiders, and it is a big one, with local junior Sam Williams named to play his first match for the club since Round 26, 2013.

CLICK HERE for the team line- up! 

Stuart has selected Williams at halfback to replace Mitch Cornish. Williams has been in stellar form for the Raiders feeder club Mounties, where he’s steered the team to the top of the VB NSW Cup ladder after four straight wins to start the season. 

Williams will be issued with the challenge of putting the polish on the final tackle of Canberra’s attacking sets, in conjunction with guiding the side around the park with five-eighth Blake Austin.

“We’re rolling down the field well, we’ve just got to execute our plays better in good ball,” Stuart said. “We dropped the ball five times out of the seven times we were down the Roosters’ end of the field last week.

“You can’t do that against any team let alone a team like the Roosters. We continually let ourselves down with our execution after all the pressure we applied on the Roosters to get down their end. We’ve got to learn from that as well as improving our last tackle options.”

Interestingly, Williams and Austin have played together previously for the NSW Combined Catholic Colleges as schoolboys.

“It’s unfortunate for Mitch, but it’s a great opportunity for Sammy,” Austin said. “He’s always been a smart organiser with a clever passing and kicking game. It will be good to play with him once again.”

The Raiders have an unfortunate record against the Sea Eagles of late, having lost their past five encounters and with just one win in their last 10 games. However, with Jamie Lyon, Brenton Lawrence, Feleti Mateo and Josh Starling all sidelined with injury, this Saturday presents a prime opportunity for the Green Machine.

KEY MATCHUPS

Jeremy Hawkins v Steve Matai

Promising outside back Jeremy Hawkins faced a steep learning curve last weekend coming up against Michael Jennings and it doesn’t get any easier this Saturday against Manly’s Steve Matai.

A proud New Zealander, who has represented the Junior Kiwis, Hawkins will relish the challenge of coming up against one his country’s finest outside backs.

Matai, who has represented the Kiwis in 12 Tests, is one of the most brutal defensive centres in the competition.

Whilst he will approach the individual encounter with the respect it deserves, Hawkins, who bench presses 150kg, squats 200kg and deadlifts 250kg, is more than equipped to handle Matai’s physicality.

Sam Williams v Daly Cherry Evans

It won’t be an easy re-introduction to the NRL by any means for former Junior Kangaroos representative Sam Williams.

Williams has come into a side that has lost three on the trot and comes up against a current Queensland and Australian representative in Daly Cherry Evans.

Despite the challenge that confronts him, Williams possesses a supremely mature head on his shoulders and won’t be overawed by the occasion.

He has bided his time in the NSW Cup, leading Mounties to an undefeated start to the season, but Williams didn’t return from France to be play in reserve grade. He wants the Raiders number seven jersey.

Here is his opportunity.

Sia Soliola v Jamie Buhrer

Sia Soliola has undoubtedly been a colossus for the Green Machine thus far in 2015, averaging 37 tackles and 121 metres per game.

What has been more effective than his impressive work-rate and on-field class however is the leadership he has provided the side on and off the field.

Soliola’s battle with Jamie Buhrer shapes as an absolute beauty.

Both players are more than your average back-rowers, with sharp, effective footwork, above-average pace and quality passing games.

STAT ATTACK

Record against the Sea Eagles:

In a total of 47 games against Manly, Canberra has won 17 games, lost 29 and drawn on one occasion.

Raiders’ record at Lavington Sports Ground:

Aside from trials, the only player from both sides to have played at the venue in a competitive match is Manly back-rower Tom Symonds who played for City there in 2011.

Last three encounters:

1.        Sea Eagles defeated Raiders 54-18 at Brookvale Oval in Round 8, 2014

2.        Sea Eagles defeated Raiders 36-22 at GIO Stadium in Round 24, 2013

3.        Sea Eagles defeated Raiders 16-10 at Brookvale Oval in Round 11, 2013


HE SAID IT

Blake Austin: “I think the team definitely needs more out of me. My running game hasn’t been too bad but I need to pull my weight in organising the team.”

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Austin.

Jeremy Hawkins: “It was a big learning curve for me coming up against a player like Jennings in the centres. I’ll take a lot from that game and try and improve this week against Manly.”

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Hawkins.

Mark Nicholls: “It’s great to be back in first grade after such a long time away. This is the level I want to stay at and I’m going to work hard to make sure I stay here.”

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Nicholls.

Ricky Stuart: “They’re (the Sydney Roosters) the benchmark and that’s what we’ve got to aspire to be at if we want to be a top four team. That’s the goal. If we didn’t have those goals I’d be wasting the club and the fans’ time.

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Stuart.

Author: Simon McGuinness