NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Cowboys

Canberra Raiders v North Queensland Cowboys

Saturday June 20, 3:00pm, GIO Stadium

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets!

Coverage: Foxsports 1

Referees:  Ashley Klein and Matt Noyen

Video Referees:  Steve Chiddy and Luke Phillips

Fresh from the bye, the Canberra Raiders will head into Saturday’s match against the in-form North Queensland Cowboys with renewed vigour as the attempt to replicate their performance from the comprehensive win over the Newcastle Knights in Round 13.

The Green Machine was absolutely terrific in the 44-22 victory over the Knights and the players have come back to Raiders HQ with an extra spring in their step following a well-earned break last week.

“Ricky rewarded us with a bit of time off last week following our good win over the Knights which was good,” Paul Vaughan said. “Everyone put the break to good use, treating any niggling injuries, and we’ve all come back fit and firing and ready for the Cowboys. It’s been a really good week at training so far.”

And the Raiders will need to be at their best when they confront the second placed Cowboys who are arguably the form team in the competition having won their last 10 matches.

Fans at GIO Stadium can expect a highly entertaining game with the 7th placed Raiders ranked as the top attacking team in the competition, and the Cowboys the third best attacking side.

“The Cowboys will be a massive test for us,” Jack Wighton said. “They have won 10 games in a row so that shows how much of a roll they are on; they’re on fire!

“We’re confident in our own ability and if we stick to our guns we can beat anybody, we truly believe that.

“We’ve got a lot on the line as well because if we lose this game there’s a possibility that we will drop out of the top eight.”

Whilst the majority of North Queensland’s troops will be fresh from also enjoying the bye last weekend, the Cowboys will have four players – Michael Morgan, Matthew Scott, James Tamou and Jonathon Thurston – backing up from the Origin on Wednesday night.

Regardless of whether the representative quartet will back up or not, the Raiders are bracing for a torrid affair as they look to improve their disappointing home record. Canberra has won just one from their six matches at home in 2015.

“They have a quality team even if one or two of those Origin players withdraws from so we’re not going to think that the game is in the bag just because they may lose a player before kick-off,” Wighton said

“It will be a tough task for them coming down to Canberra to play though which works in our favour. It’s nice and cold here at the moment and hopefully we get a big crowd out to GIO Stadium to remind them where they are playing!”

The Cowboys have struggled in Canberra since their inception into the competition in 1995, winning just four from the 17 games played at GIO Stadium.

Whilst the Cowboys line-up for Saturday is far from certain, Ricky Stuart has been lucky enough to name the same 17 that comprehensively defeated the Knights by 22 points.

CLICK HERE for the team line-up! 

KEY MATCHUPS

Sam Williams v Jonathon Thurston

Since winning back the number seven jersey from Mitch Cornish, Williams has been terrific for the Raiders, guiding the team around the park with class and authority, and carrying out Ricky Stuart's game plan to a T.

In the most recent game, the 44-22 win over the Knights, Williams was simply superb registering four try assists and three line break assists. With confidence on his side, Williams is looking forward to testing himself against the best in the business.

"Thurston is the best player in the game in my opinion and he's proven just how good he is for a long time, even after playing Origin during the week," Williams said. "In their win over Parramatta, the way he brought his side back into the contest just shows his class.

"He's a player who I love watching play and it's important that we as a team shut him down for the entire 80 minutes to minimise the damage he can cause us.

"Personally, it will be a great individual challenge for myself coming up against him on Saturday and one that I'm looking forward to."

Josh Papalii v Gavin Cooper

Three tries in seven minutes by Gavin Cooper was the leading force behind the Cowboys’ remarkable come-from-behind victory over the Parramatta Eels in Round 13.

Cooper has been an unsung hero of North Queensland’s successful start to 2015 and will be an imminent threat down the Cowboys’ left hand edge.

The strapping second-rower has an intuitive knowledge of Thurston’s masterful passing and kicking game and their combination will need to be closely monitored by the Raiders’ right edge defence.

Cooper’s clash with his opposite number, the bullocking Josh Papalii, will be an intriguing individual battle that may prove pivotal to the game’s outcome. Papalii will be full of confidence having been recalled into the Queensland squad and will be looking to continue his good form to ensure that he is next in line if injuries arise in Game Three.

David Shillington v James Tamou

Since his return to the side from injury, Shillington has not only forced his way back into the starting team, but emerged as one of the most influential members of the team.

Shillington’s work-rate in the middle of the field has been nothing short of outstanding. Since his first match of the year in Round 10, Shillington has averaged 147 metres, 24 tackles and registered six offloads.

The former Australian international bookend will need to be at his best when he confronts the two current Australian internationals in Scott and Tamou.

Tamou in particular has hit a damaging period of form and he will need to be shut down early to ensure that the likes of Coote, Morgan, Thurston and Granville aren’t able to capitalise on the momentum his charges provide.

STAT ATTACK

Record against the Cowboys:

In a total of 34 games against North Queensland, Canberra has won 20 games and lost on 14 occasions.

Cowboys record at GIO Stadium:

In a total of 17 games played at GIO Stadium, North Queensland has won just 4 games and lost on 13 occasions.

Last three encounters:

1.        Raiders defeated Cowboys 42-12 at GIO Stadium in Round 11, 2014

2.        Cowboys defeated Raiders 28-22 at GIO Stadium in Round 1, 2014

3.        Raiders defeated Cowboys 26-18 at GIO Stadium in Round 7, 2013


HE SAID IT

Jack Wighton: “Everyone has been doing their jobs and they have to because with the great club culture that we have here there is plenty of competition for spots. There’s pressure on everyone to perform and that’s what will make us successful.”

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Wighton.

Sam Williams: “As a halfback, it’s a good reflection on you if your team is scoring points. In saying that though, I’m really lucky to have blokes like Josh Papalii and Jack Wighton around me.”

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Williams.