NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Titans
The Raiders will make their second trip to Queensland in three weeks as they prepare to take on the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday.
The match shapes up as a golden opportunity for Canberra to give themselves some breathing room in a top eight race that looks increasingly like going down to the wire come September.
Raiders forward Sia Soliola believes that nothing short of an eighty-minute performance is required if Canberra are to move three competition points clear of the Titans.
“They’ve been the most competitive – throughout the whole eighty minutes – team this year,” Soliola said.
“They got us here in the back end of the game [in Round 4], so we know that we have to play the full eighty minutes.”
Soliola said the Round four loss was still stinging, where the home side squandered a 20-4 lead to lose on the bell.
“To move forward, you’ve got to acknowledge what’s happened. It still hurts, the way they stole that one from us.
“We’ve acknowledged it and we’re ready to move on.”
Soliola believes that a win this weekend is vital, with a number of sides threatening to sneak into the top eight leading into the business end of the season.
“Not only Gold Coast, [but the] Warriors are starting to find some good form. A lot of the teams that are beneath us are starting to find some good straps, so we need to start stringing a few games before the next bye.”
Ricky Stuart has named Jack Wighton and Shannon Boyd to make their returns to the starting side, and bench player Kurt Baptiste
“It’s great to have them back,” Baptiste said.
“The boys that stepped in did a great job, [but] those two blokes bring a lot to the team and it’ll be great to have them back this week.”
Canberra welcome back Jack Wighton and Shannon Boyd from suspension ahead of this weekend’s clash, meaning Zac Santo and Clay Priest have dropped out of the seventeen.
Boyd will take his place in the starting line-up, meaning Paul Vaughan will filter back to the bench.
Josh Papalii has been named in the number eleven jumper, backing up from State of Origin II in Brisbane.
The Titans will welcome Greg Bird back from State of Origin duties, and Agnatius Paasi returns to the side on an extended bench.
Luke Bateman vs Greg Bird
Emerging Raiders lock Luke Bateman has come on in leaps and bounds so far this season, and faces one of his toughest tests this Sunday. Touted as a future representative player, Bateman will be relishing the chance to shut down the Titans star.
Bird will be backing up from Wednesday night’s State of Origin clash, and will provide Bateman with one of his most difficult assignment’s since coming into the starting line-up.
Josh Hodgson vs Nathan Peats
Nathan Peats has been one of the most talked about players in the competition this year, and moves into Neil Henry’s starting thirteen for the first time this Sunday. Peats will be desperate to produce a memorable performance in front of his new home fans.
It won’t come easy for the Titans rake, as he opposes Canberra’s Josh Hodgson. The English international has set the competition alight this season, maintaining his place amongst the competition heavyweights on the Dally M leader board when voting went behind closed doors.
Aidan Sezer vs Ashley Taylor
Canberra halfback Aidan Sezer goes head-to-head with boom rookie Ashley Taylor when he returns to his old stomping ground for the first time this weekend.
After spending four seasons on the Gold Coast, Sezer joined the Raiders in 2016 and has played a key role in the side’s success this season.
Taylor has been a revelation for the Titans this year, stamping his credentials as a potential Rookie of the Year after steering the Titans into the top eight at the halfway point of the season.
Highlights from the Raiders round four match against the Titans.