The Canberra Raiders will look to break a three match losing streak when they come up against the North Queensland Cowboys at GIO Stadium this Saturday.
After a heartbreaking defeat to Penrith was followed by a golden point loss to Manly, the Green Machine would then host the Brisbane Broncos, only to be left disappointed again as they went down 30-20.
The Cowboys will come into this round full of confidence after a narrow win against Penrith in Townsville last Saturday afternoon.
That performance was inspired by two forwards who are certainly shaping up to be the competitions most damaging. Jason Taumalolo racked up 222 running metres against the Panthers and Coen Hess made 245 metres with the ball.
If the Raiders are to compete with these astonishing numbers their forwards must improve, with Junior Paulo the only forward for the Raiders to make over 100 running metres against the Broncos.
The Cowboys however will be without their captain and leader Jonathan Thurston once again due to a shoulder injury, but after a mid-season switch from Penrith, Te Maire Martin may potentially be in line for his North Queensland debut.
Canberra have only managed to win three out of nine games against top eight opposition this season and the Cowboys are just hanging on to 7th place, two points ahead of Parramatta.
A loss this week and the Cowboys could fall as low as Ninth depending on how other results unfold. Whilst for Canberra a loss could see them drop as low as 14th depending on how other results unfold.
With only nine rounds to follow after this, the race to play finals footy is starting to heat up and teams must start finding form around this stage. For Canberra it is crucial they can deliver their home fans two points, whilst for North Queensland a win would guarantee their top eight spot for at least another week.
The last time these two sides faced off was at 1300 Smiles Stadium in Townsville and it ended in very dramatic circumstances, as a golden point field goal from Jonathan Thurston hit the post, only for it to fall in the path of Gavin Cooper who scored a heartbreaking last minute try.
It was a game that could have gone either way and the Raiders were enormous as a losing team having been on the wrong side of a 60/40% possession count and an 11-4 penalty count.
Key Match Ups:
Aidan Sezer v Michael Morgan
A Raiders Halfback looking to find better form will come up against a half constantly moving to and from positions in the halves. Michael Morgan has been exceptional in taking control over his side the past few weeks whilst Aidan Sezer has struggled to find the form that helped his side reach a preliminary final last season.
This battle at halfback could be pivotal for both team’s chances of winning this game as strong direction and control with the ball will allow for each teams forward packs to control the middle of the field.
Josh Papalii v Gavin Cooper
These two players will be quite familiar to each other having come out of Queensland camp only a little over a week ago. When both these sides win, Josh Papalii and Gavin Cooper are always a massive reason for that victory.
Two leaders in their positions, these State of Origin representatives will play a crucial part in giving their side good metres and strong defence this Saturday. History tells us this game could well and truly be a grind, and with origin representatives coming from both teams second row the game could be won through the class of either Cooper or Papalii.
Nick Cotric v Kyle Feldt
Two wingers that have given so much for their team this season, scoring clutch tries and proving to me an impact comes natural to both Cotric and Feldt. These wingers can jump, both are strong and both can definitely show some speed.
This match up could be the difference between both sides this Saturday as I would expect plenty of ball to be headed to this corner of the field. Expect not only to see a physical battle on ground but also in the air.
Dave Taylor v Shaun Fensom
Shaun Fensom will play in Canberra for the first time without wearing green. It will be a strange sight for the Raiders and he will come up against a very big Raiders forward pack which now consists of Dave Taylor. The former Kangaroos and Maroons representative will be eager to prove a point to Raiders coach Ricky Stuart and the Canberra faithful so this will be one to not take your eye off.
Head to Head
Played 38: Raiders 21 - Cowboys 17
A quite even contest between the two teams over the twenty plus years since the Cowboys entered the competition. The last four meetings between these two teams have seen the final margin being no more than 14 points.
Quote of the week:
“We aren’t where we should be and this week is an important week for us and I do feel if we get the win this weekend it will be a bit of a snowball effect and hopefully we can string some wins after that” – Jordan Rapana