Canberra Raiders v New Zealand Warriors
Saturday June 27, 5:00pm (local time), Mt Smart Stadium
CLICK HERE to purchase tickets!
Coverage: Foxsports 1 (Live from 3:00pm)
Referees: Gerard Sutton and Chris Buttler
Video Referees: Steve Chiddy and Ben Galea
The Canberra Raiders are striving to utilise the pain from last week’s heartbreaking last minute loss to the North Queensland Cowboys to fuel the fire in their bellies when they travel across the ditch to confront the New Zealand Warriors.
North Queensland was on an absolute roll leading into the clash, sitting in second place on the ladder with 10 wins in a row and having three of their four State of Origin stars backing up, including arguably the best player in the game in Jonathon Thurston.
For the entire 80 minutes, Canberra proved to all and sundry that they can match it with the very best in the competition, with the only thing separating the two sides being some crucial instances of ill-discipline and the brilliance of the mercurial Thurston.
“I think that we’re a better team after that game than what we were before it,” Coach Ricky Stuart said after the match. “I’m so proud of this group of players and we will get so much out of that game.”
Admirably, the Raiders players left nothing in the tank against the Cowboys and the agony from the painful loss was evident on every player’s face when they left the field and inside the dressing sheds.
The Members and fans were certainly hurting too, however hurt was overshadowed by the tremendous feeling of pride of their men in green.
Nevertheless, the Green Machine will be aiming to use the undesirable feeling derived from the loss as motivation against what is an extremely dangerous Warriors outfit.
“It was heartbreaking to lose in the dying seconds but despite the loss, the mood has been really positive around training this week,” Jarrad Kennedy said.
“We showed that we can match it against anyone in the NRL and we will use that painful feeling that we felt as an added incentive to get the win this Saturday against the Warriors.
“It’s a massive game for us especially leading into our last bye. It’s essentially a four point game for us. We were proud of our efforts last week but it still wasn’t the result we wanted and we want to turn that around. We’re all raring to go.”
After back-to-back losses, the Warriors bounced back impressively last week with a formidable 36-14 victory over the Titans at CBUS Super Stadium. They will also head into the match looking to put on a show with all three grades set to play at Mount Smart Stadium.
Working in the Raiders favour is their sensational record on the road this year having won five of their seven away fixtures. Interestingly, the Warriors, who are traditionally incredibly tough to beat at home, have only won three of their six home matches in 2015.
This match is of high importance to Canberra in regards to their standing in the competition ladder. Currently sitting in 10th position, a win over 7th placed New Zealand will see the Raiders leapfrog the Warriors on the ladder due to their superior for-and-against record. However, a loss will see the Raiders slump further down the ladder, illustrating just how close the NRL is this year.
The Raiders will also be striving to make amends for the 18-6 loss to the Warriors earlier this year in Round 2.
“We didn’t step up to the platform last time that we played them and we’re keen to turn that around this time on their home turf," said the in-form Josh Papalii.
CLICK HERE to watch the Round 2 Match Highlights.
In team changes, Stuart has named the same 17 that went down to the Cowboys by one point, with mid-season recruit Joey Leilua travelling with the side as 18th man.
CLICK HERE for the team line-up!
Milesstones: Sia Soliola will celebrate his 200th career game after previous stints in the NRL with the Sydney Roosters and in the English Super League, whilst Blake Austin will celebrate his 50th NRL match.
Sam Williams v Shaun Johnson
On his day, there are few players whom are better to watch than Shaun Johnson, and the outrageously talented halfback’s wizardry was on show for all to see in the Warriors win over the Titans last week with two slashing tries amongst a handful of try assists.
The 2014 Golden Boot winner has proved a troublesome commodity for the Raiders in their last few encounters and he will no doubt be a heavily marked man on Saturday.
His running game will be monitored particularly closely given that Johnson has registered nine line breaks in his 14 games this year.
Williams is a different style of halfback to that of Johnson but he will be nonetheless crucial to his side’s cause. Blessed with an excellent kicking game and tactical nous beyond his years, Williams’ boot and direction will be extremely effective in tiring the Warriors’ big pack of forwards.
Jordan Rapana v Manu Vatuvei
If history between the two sides is anything to go by, Manu Vatuvei must be stopped at all costs when the Raiders clash with the Warriors.
The devastating winger, and charismatic crowd favourite, has scored an incredible 13 tries in the past six games against the Green Machine and has already crossed for 10 tries in his 13 appearances in 2015.
Standing opposite Vatuvei will be Jordan Rapana who gives away 14 kilograms in weight to the man affectionately known as “The Beast.”
What Rapana lacks in size, he more than makes up for in speed and bravery and has crossed for five tries in 11 games and has registered eight line breaks, second in the club behind Blake Austin.
With the acquisition of Joey Leilua there is increased pressure on the outside backs and Rapana will no doubt be looking to put in a big performance to ensure he does not make way for the former Knight.
Paul Vaughan v Ben Matulino
In what is a monstrous New Zealand pack of forwards, the leader up front is undoubtedly their Kiwi Test front-rower Ben Matulino.
At just 26 years of age, Matulino is not only the premier front-rower at the club, but one of the best bookends in world rugby league.
In 2015, Matulino averages 156 meters per match and is pivotal in creating space for the likes of Johnson and Sam Tomkins.
Matulino will go head-to-head with Raiders young buck Paul Vaughan who has forced his way into the starting line-up recently after his colossal form up front. In his 14 appearances for the year, Vaughan has averaged 146 metres per game.
Record against the Warriors:
In a total of 323 games against North Queensland, Canberra has won 17 games and lost on 16 occasions.
Raiders record at Mt Smart Stadium:
In a total of 16 games played at Mt Smart Stadium, Canberra has won just 6 games and lost on 10 occasions.
Last three encounters:
1. Warriors defeated Raiders 18-6 at GIO Stadium in Round 2, 2015
2. Warriors defeated Raiders 54-18 at GIO Stadium in Round 21, 2014
3. Warriors defeated Raiders 54-12 at Eden Park in Round 9, 2014
HE SAID IT
Shannon Boyd: “We’ll take a lot out of that match against the Cowboys. It was a pretty painful defeat but it just goes to show that we can match it with the very best teams in the comp.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Boyd.
Jarrad Kennedy: “Shaun Johnson had a very good game on the weekend with some very skilful tries. He will be a massive focus for us and we need to watch him collectively as a group because if anyone slackens off he will make you pay!”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Kennedy.
Josh Papalii: “I’m pretty happy with my form at the moment. I was struggling for the first half of the season because I was playing in the front-row and a little overweight, but I’ve trimmed down now and am back on the edge where I’m more comfortable.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Papalii.
David Shillington: “It’s a big trip for us from Wednesday to Sunday so we will get plenty of preparation over there before the match and we’ll need it too because the Warriors are a really strong outfit, particularly at home.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Shillington.