When Raiders lock Sia Soliola rattled the ribs of Roosters playmaker Luke Keary in Canberra’s clash with the Tricolours on Saturday afternoon, it just about made the Mal Meninga Stand shake.
It awoke memories of the bone-crunching hit that former Raider Ruben Wiki laid on Adrian Lamb in 1996.
Both were absolute bell-ringers.
When Soliola welcomed Keary to the nation’s capital 19 minutes into Saturday’s game it represented the recent return to form of the Raiders’ behemoth pack.
The same middle men struggled to gain the ascendancy over opposition forward packs in the Green Machine’s recent three-game losing streak.
They lost the metres-gained battle by a combined 855 metres in back-to-back losses to Manly and Canterbury, before only pipping an inexperienced Knights outfit in that area in a match in which their bogey side claimed another win.
The Sea Eagles won the metres-gained battle 1585-1101 in their two-point golden-point win and the Bulldogs 1848-1470 en route to snagging a six-point victory the following week.
The battle of the forwards then proved a tight one in the Raiders’ trip to the Hunter, Canberra finding 1331 to the hosts’ 1321.
But the Raiders’ big men have since unearthed the ominous march up-field that played a huge hand in propelling the men in green to their first preliminary final berth since 1997 last season.
It has reignited strong competition for spots in the forwards, something that interchange prop Dunamis Lui thinks is great for the squad.
“There is (strong competition),” he said.
“But that’s what you want in a team, so it’s always good. I guess it’s just up to the individual – how hard they want to train and work their way into the team.”
Led by front-row man-monsters Junior Paulo and Shannon Boyd, quality metres continually rolled the Raiders into optimal field territory in their match with the Bondi brigade.
Paulo amassed 154 metres to make more than every other forward on the park, while Boyd was monumental in racking up 140 as the Raiders bulldozed to a 1658-1371 metres-gained win.
Boyd only had praise for his front-row combination with Paulo.
“We get along really well, Junior and I,” he said.
“I think we do a pretty good job in the front-row. Junior has been outstanding the majority of the year.”
Boyd also said he is pleased to have burrowed his way out of a form rut.
“I had a bit of a quiet patch there for a couple of weeks and sort of got down on myself which didn’t make it any better,” he said.
“But I’m starting to play better footy. I’m getting some more minutes and being more effective.”
Forwards Joe Tapine, Clay Priest and Lui all offered enormous support for Paulo and Boyd off the bench on the weekend.
Tapine made massive inroads in garnering 86 metres from just 38 minutes and laying a number of hard-hitting tackles to produce arguably his best game of the season.
One of the Kiwi international’s best hits of the afternoon was a second-half bell-ringer on hooker Jake Friend, a tackle of the kind of defensive presence that makes Boyd a big fan of Tapine.
“He’s only a young bloke but he’s quite aggressive,” he said.
“It does bring a bit of spark off the bench … It adds that bit of punch and aggression.”
The Raiders’ forward pack will have to turn in another big game this Sunday if Canberra is to repeat the heroics of its most recent trip to Brookvale, a fixture the Green Machine clinched in a 44-30 win.