NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Warriors
The Raiders enter Saturday afternoon's match against the Warriors knowing a win would see them rise to fourth place on the ladder unless tonight's Cowboys and Bulldogs match ends in a draw.
The two sides locked horns earlier this season in Round 11, with the Raiders coming away with a dominant 38-12 win. The win was a big boost for the Raiders and since that match, the club has recorded six wins for only one loss.
The match also instigated an upturn in results for the Warriors too. In their previous six games, the Auckland-based side have only lost twice – both in golden point.
One of those golden point losses occurred last weekend against the Sea Eagles in Perth and Raiders forward Sia Soliola is wary of the threat the Warriors pose as they look to return to winning ways.
“We know they are going to bounce back pretty good so we’re training hard for that as well,” said Soliola.
“The Warriors have always had a big pack. We’re fortunate this year to have some big boppers ourselves, so it’s going to be a good battle in the middle for us.”
Ricky Stuart’s men will have to do without Kurt Baptiste after the utility injured his foot in the dying moment against the Cowboys.
Hooker, Josh Hodgson said although the Papua New Guinea international is a big loss, the team will be able to continue winning without him.
“He’s been coming on and really lifting the game and lifting the tempo,” said Hodgson. “He’s a great kid, he’s pretty quiet but goes about his business and does his job well. He’ll be missed for us this week…but it’s tough to replace someone who gives you that spark off the bench.”
Ricky Stuart has named four forwards on the bench for the first time in his reign at Canberra. Josh Papalii and Luke Bateman return from injury and suspension respectively in place for Clay Priest and the injured Kurt Baptiste.
The Warriors have one change to their team that lost to Manly in golden point last week with Jacob Lillyman coming into the side for the suspended Charlie Gubb.
Aidan Sezer v Shaun Johnson
The Raiders half has been in good form in 2016, having scored five tries as well as assisted another five. Sezer averages close to 230 kick meters per game, and it is his kicking and game management skills that help the Green Machine to build pressure on opposition teams.
Since the Warriors faced the Raiders in Round 11, Shaun Johnson has been arguably the form player in the competition. In the last six games, the Kiwi international has scored three tries while assisting five for his teammates.
Joey Leilua v Solomone Kata
Leilua and Kata are two of the leading 'tackle busters' in the NRL this season. Leilua has been kept contained in recent weeks as rival teams continue to focus their defensive efforts on the Raiders right edge.
Kata is the go-to man for the Warriors when they are looking at causing havoc. The Tongan international has scored ten tries already this season and has 76 tackle breaks, four less than Leilua's tally. Leilua will need to be on his A-game in defence on Saturday to stop Kata and the Warriors gaining momentum.
Shannon Boyd v Jacob Lillyman
Boyd impressed in the Raiders last game against the Cowboys. The big forward laid the foundation for the Raiders win with 128m from 12 runs. The Country Origin representative will need to be at his best again to negate the effect of Warriors' powerful pack.
Charlie Gubb is missing for the Warriors but Lillyman takes his place for this week's clash. The Queensland representative injured his ankle in the final Origin game but has been deemed fit for the weekend. The 32-year old has averaged over 100m and 27 tackles per game in 2016.
See highlights from the last time the Raiders met the Warriors in Round 11.