NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Dragons
Canberra Raiders v St George Illawarra Dragons
Sunday May 17, 2:00pm, WIN Stadium
CLICK HERE to purchase tickets!
Coverage: Foxsports 1
Referees: Ben Cummins and Ziggy Przelasa-Adamski
Video Referees: Steve Chiddy and Ben Galea
It will be ‘Take 2’ this Sunday when the Green Machine confronts their arch rivals, St George Illawarra, but rest easy Raiders fans as the team has thrown out their script from their loss to the Dragons earlier this year and are fired up to make amends!
The 22-20 loss to the Dragons in Round 3 was by one of the more forgettable moments for the Raiders this year. Canberra stormed out of the blocks early and raced away to an 18-0 lead before ultimately being run down late in the second half to hand the Dragons their first win of the year.
CLICK HERE to watch the Round 3 Match Highlights.
The disappointing mood in the sheds after the match was akin to a group of school children being told that Christmas will be cancelled, and the loss still leaves a bitter taste in the player’s mouths.
“To be honest, that loss still burns in my mind pretty heavily and I’m sure it is in everyone else’s mind too because it was a tough one to swallow,” Hodgson said.
“We started well against the Dragons but our second half really let us down and that was very disappointing. That day was definitely a lesson learned for us. We can’t get into a lead and then rely on that to get us home. We’ve learned our lesson though and we’ve come out the other side stronger.”
Since that encounter, both sides have made a dramatic climb up the NRL ladder. The Dragons embarked on a six match winning streak to secure a foothold at third place on the ladder, whilst the fifth placed Raiders are gunning for their fourth straight victory.
The resounding 56-16 win over the Titans now sees the Raiders placed as the best attacking team in the competition statistically.
Canberra’s current form is starting to capture the attention of rival club’s and the players are blossoming with their new found belief and confidence.
“There’s a really good feeling within the club at the moment and the last three games we’ve been able to really show what we’re capable of,” Papalii said. “There is a lot of confidence and there are promising signs for the year ahead.”
Whilst confidence is high, Hodgson believes that it is imperative that the team does not get too far ahead of themselves. This will be especially crucial against a Dragons outfit looking to bounce back from their most recent loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Monday night.
“We’re upbeat and confident and everybody is all smiles at the moment but at the same time we know that it’s only a short way through the season and we haven’t achieved anything yet,” the former Hull KR Captain said. “We’ve got to keep working hard and continue to keep our heads down.
“We’ve always had confidence in ourselves and in our game plan and on our day we can beat anybody, but we cannot afford to get too carried away with ourselves.”
Assisting in the continuity of form has been the fact that Ricky Stuart has been able to settle on a strong line-up. Unfortunately, there is a forced change this week due to the injury to halfback Sam Williams. Williams’ absence sees Mitch Cornish return to the side after a Man of the Match display for Mounties last week.
CLICK HERE for the team line-up!
An added incentive for the Green Machine this Sunday will be to make Captain Jarrod Croker’s 150th game for the club a memorable occasion.
Croker, the competition’s leading point scorer with 86 points, is uneasy about making his accomplishment the forefront theme of the match, but there is no doubt that his team mates will lift an extra notch to enable their skipper to celebrate the milestone in the appropriate manner.
Jack Wighton v Josh Dugan
With an NSW Origin jersey on the line, the Raiders are bracing for a big performance from their former team mate Josh Dugan.
Dugan, who averages 168 metres and has registered four line-breaks for the year, has been in fine touch for the Dragons of late and was named Man of the Match in their win over the Rabbitohs in Round 9.
His powerful kick returns will need to be watched closely by the Green Machine to restrict the Dragons from getting on a roll with the commencement of their set of sixes.
On the other side of the coin, Wighton, who averages 151 metres with ball in hand, will also be closely monitored by the Red V.
Blake Austin v Benji Marshall
Austin has been in sensational form for Canberra all year however his form has sky-rocketed over the last month, so much so that his name has been floated as a potential bolter for the NSW Blues.
The dynamic five-eighth’s running game will no doubt be heavily scrutinised during the week by Dragons Coach Paul McGregor. Austin has registered five tries and eight line breaks for the Raiders in 2015, excluding his hat-trick that he posted for City.
Arguably his best try this year was in fact against the Dragons in Round 3. CLICK HERE to watch Austin’s try against the Dragons in Round 3.
Whilst Austin will directly oppose Gareth Widdop at five-eighth, his battle with halfback Benji Marshall shapes as the more intriguing clash given that the Kiwi maestro boasts a career record of 14 wins from 15 games against the Raiders.
Josh Papalii v Joel Thompson
Former Raider Thompson knows just how intense the Canberra-St George Illawarra is after having experience as an insider in both camps.
More importantly, Thompson has been one of the Dragons’ most dominant forwards in 2015 and is primed for a big match against his former team mates. Thompson has also been intrusted to lead the side forward being one of the most senior members of St George Illawarra’s forward pack.
The Country rep is a great line-runner and a tough tackler and his battle with Josh Papalii shapes as a beauty. Both players share a friendship off the field, but are certain to leave that aside for 80 minutes as they try and secure a win for their respective sides.
Record against the Dragons:
In a total of 25 games against St George Illawarra, Canberra has won 16 games, lost 8 and drawn on one occasion.
Raiders record at WIN Stadium:
In a total of 6 games played at WIN Stadium, the Canberra has won on 3 occasions, lost on two and drawn once.
Last three encounters:
1. Dragons defeated Raiders 22-20 at GIO Stadium in Round 3, 2015
2. Dragons defeated Raiders 34-16 at GIO Stadium in Round 23, 2014
3. Raiders defeated Dragons 22-18 at WIN Stadium in Round 20, 2013
HE SAID IT
Josh Hodgson: “Our game plan won’t change with Mitch in the team. We’re lucky to be able to call on a player like Mitch; he will be a great addition to the team. It’s unfortunate for Sammy because he has been doing a great job for us but we’ve got every bit of confidence in Mitch, he’s a fantastic young kid and a fantastic young player.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Hodgson.
Edrick Lee: “My combination on the left edge with Sia and Crokes is starting to come along nicely. Crokes and I are very lucky to have the experience of having a guy like Sia inside us because he’s talk in defence is awesome and really helps us out.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Lee.
Josh Papalii: “The last three games I’ve been able to show what I’m capable of on the edge but having played in the middle at prop earlier in the year it also shows the Queensland selectors my versatility.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Papalii.