NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Sharks

The Canberra Raiders enter their clash against the Cronulla Sharks at GIO Stadium on Sunday afternoon full of momentum, having lost just one of their last five games.

Canberra's 32-18 win over the Titans last week ensures they enter Round 10 sitting just a win outside of the top eight.

Last week the eighth placed Sharks survived three late tries and a missed conversion after the siren against the Eels to win 22-20.

The Raiders have named Shannon Boyd to come into the starting side for the injured Junior Paulo who will miss 8-10 weeks with a foot strain.

Charlie Gubb is set to take Boyd's spot on the bench after he successfully returned from an injury he sustained on his club debut against the Knights.

The Sharks welcome back Paul Gallen and Jason Bukuya as Wade Graham and former Raider Scott Sorenson drop out of the side due to injuries. Joseph Paulo moves to the bench to accommodate Gallen's return.

Last Time:

The Raiders prevailed over the Sharks 30-12 when these two met in Round 22 last season at Southern Cross Group Stadium.

After going down 8-0 early, the Raiders scored 24 straight points to lead at half time. The key moment was when Josh Papalii was sent to the sin bin midway through the second half.

The Raiders' superb game management allowed them to kick three penalty goals and ensure the Sharks barely touched the ball during the ten minutes, ruling out any chance of a Cronulla comeback.

Key Matchups

Shannon Boyd vs Andrew Fifita

Two of the big boys of the NRL go head to head this week. Shannon Boyd is coming off a monster performance against the Titans which included a big break through the middle and him crossing for his first try of the season.

This week sees him promoted to the starting line-up and it's also his 100th game in the NRL so expect the big man to be raring to go.

He comes up against incumbent New South Wales prop forward, Andrew Fifita. Fifita has made a characteristically strong start to the season and he leads the NRL with 33 offloads.

He plays a huge role in the Sharks' success with the three games where he has played huge minutes this season coming during Cronulla's unbeaten stretch over the last three rounds.

Jack Wighton vs Valentine Holmes

Valentine Holmes provides a huge threat for the Sharks every time he gets his hands on the football. After a shaky start to the season at fullback, Holmes has grown into the season back on the wing before moving back into the number one jersey last week.

Jack Wighton on the other hand has been solid at the back for Canberra as well as offering some flair in attack. He has scored two tries and laid on five try assists in his eight games so far. Expect Wighton to rise to the occasion for this clash where his opposite number is one of the most skilled players in the game.

Josh Papalii vs Paul Gallen

Paul Gallen returns just in time to set up a blockbuster clash with Josh Papalii after missing the last three weeks with a knee injury. Gallen, who for so many years was the captain of New South Wales, comes up against Papalii who is 11 years his junior and will again look to represent Queensland this year.

With the Sharks having won the three games which Gallen missed, the Cronulla captain will be hoping he can provide a boost to the in-form side.

After a quiet start to the season which saw him dropped to Mounties, Papalii has looked reinvigorated at lock, returning to the damaging runs which he is known for.

He has also twice crossed for a try since his return to first grade. He'll no doubt be looking to keep this form going as he lines up against Gallen.

Aidan Sezer v Chad Townsend

Aidan Sezer enters this game in terrific form. He has been the architect of the Raiders' attack and his kicking game has been superb in recent weeks. Once again one of his kicks led to a try last weekend, with Jarrod Croker the beneficiary when Michael Gordon was unable to get a hand on Sezer's spiralling bomb.

That moved Sezer's try assist tally to four for the season, one ahead of Chad Townsend. Townsend has played a similar role to Sezer this season, stepping up to manage the game and do the majority of the kicking since James Maloney moved to the Panthers in the offseason.

Townsend has also proven himself as a matchwinner, kicking two field goals in the Sharks 10-9 win over the Titans in Round 8.

Whether it's the Raiders or the Sharks that come out on top on Sunday, you can bet that the win will have one of these guy's fingerprints all over it.

Quote of the Week:

We've always backed ourselves in attack, where we've been challenged is our defence and that's where a lot of our improvements have come. -Sia Soliola

Head to Head: The Sharks have the upper hand in past matchups, winning 39 of the 72 matches played, with Canberra winning just 33.