The Canberra Raiders will be out to break a four game losing streak this Friday night when they take on the St George Illawarra Dragons at GIO Stadium.
It is a must win game for the Raiders who are currently sitting in 11th on the ladder, six points away from a Dragons side who are placed 7th. Both of these teams suffered defeats in their most recent outings, however both will be pleased to be coming into the round 19 clash fresh from a bye.
Josh Dugan and Tyson Frizell have not been named for the dragons after coming off Origin duty, whilst Canberra Second Row Josh Papalii has been named to start at second row for the Raiders. Should he not play for Canberra, Sia Soliola is expected to take his place in the starting line-up.
A win for the Raiders could move them up to 10th on the ladder, while a loss could potentially send them as low as 14th depending on the results of other matches. The Dragons are currently 4 points clear from 9th spot as a loss would send them as low as 8th as a win could potentially move them into the top four, depending on how other results unfold.
With both teams currently struggling to find some consistency it is a massive game for both teams. A loss for the Dragons could see them slowly starting to slide out of the top eight however a win would put them six points clear of ninth.
For the Raiders it has come down to a now or never situation as a loss would potentially spell an end to their chances of playing finals footy. In what is expected to be once again extremely cold conditions on Friday, the Raiders must find that extra gear they have been missing for majority of the season.
The last time these two sides went into battle was over a year ago in round 10 of the 2016 NRL season. The Dragons took the two points in that low scoring game thanks to an 85th minute extra time try from Euan Aitken.
The try was gifted to Aitken in that game after a Jack Wighton pass in his own territory went horribly wrong as Aitken received the wayward pass and raced 20m to sink Canberra at the death.
Key Match Ups:
Junior Paulo v Leeson Ah Mau
The 118kg Junior Paulo will square up against the 112kg Leeson Ah Mau in what is expected to be a close contest up the middle. Paulo has averaged 149 metres with the ball this season whilst Ah Mau has averaged 112. Leeson Ah Mau’s defence has been huge for the Dragons this season having a successful average tackle rate of 97%. Paulo’s isn’t too far behind at 94%
In both these sides recent matches they were well beaten in their respective forward packs so expect to see both forwards having a point to prove this Friday night.
Josh Hodgson v Cameron McInnes
When both the Raiders and Dragons are playing their best football, these two players are definitely a major reason for that. With Hodgson expecting to return from an injury this Friday, he will be up against a hooker that made claims early on this season to potentially be picked for NSW.
Both hookers have scored two tries each this season and also been influential in their sides defensive efforts. McInnes has only missed 15 tackles from 755 whilst Hodgson has missed 38 from 573. This Friday you can expect the hooker of the winning team to have had a massive game, a performance both teams desperately need.
Jack Wighton v Jason Nightingale
With Josh Dugan likely to miss out due to a close back up from Origin, Raiders fullback Jack Wighton is likely to come up against Jason Nightingale in the clash from the back. Both have been exceptional in running the ball, both averaging over 100 running metres per game.
History tells us that these two sides love nail bitting finishes and close games in general. The more consistent fullback in this clash will help their side’s chances of winning to a great extent. The margin could very well be close and any simple costly errors from the back could prove to be costly.
Head to Head
Played 27: Raiders 16 – Dragons 10 – 1 Draw
The Raiders traditionally have had a great history against St George Illawarra, however the Dragons have won 4 out of the last 5 against Canberra.
Five out of the last eleven matches played been the two teams has seen the Half Time total score to be less than 12 points.
Quote of the week
“The last couple of times we have played the Dragons it has been really close, there have been some great battles in recent history.” – Luke Bateman