NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Dragons

The Raiders head to Mudgee this week to face the ladder leading St George Illawarra Dragons at Glen Willow Oval on Sunday afternoon.

The Raiders went down to the Cronulla Sharks last week after leading 16-8 at half time but have still won four of their last six games.

The Dragons lost to the Rabbitohs 24-10 last week but remain on top of the NRL ladder with just two losses so far this season.

The Raiders have named an unchanged line up with Blake Austin named despite leaving the field last week with an ankle injury, though Sam Williams has been named in the reserves and is on standby.

The Dragons' only change is bringing Blake Lawrie in to replace Zac Lomax on the bench.

Last Time: Canberra won 18-14 in golden point when these sides met at GIO Stadium in Round 19 last season.

The 80 minutes finished with both sides spraying numerous field goal attempts before an Aidan Sezer 40/20 in extra time set the Raiders up with the excellent field position that would lead Dave Taylor to charge into the defensive line and offload to Elliot Whitehead who scored the golden try.

Key Matchups

Sia Soliola vs James Graham

This is a battle between the leaders of the two forward packs. Seven years after they played together in consecutive English Super League grand finals for St Helens, these two are the oldest members of their respective squads and all season they have used their experience to lead from the front in both defence and attack.

Soliola has been a standout for the Raiders once again in 2018. He has already scored two tries and he has nearly 300 tackles to his name through ten rounds.

He sets the tone each week by making a positive start that the bench forwards can build off.

Graham was proven himself to be a fantastic signing since joining the Dragons from the Bulldogs in the off-season.

He has already passed 1000 run metres for the season, with more than a third of that coming in post contact metres.

The stats don't show the impact of the leadership he has provided though, or how he has led the Dragons' transformation from a side that missed the finals in 2017 to a team which sits in first place after ten rounds.

Siliva Havili vs Cameron McInnes

Siliva Havili has been a revelation for the Raiders this season. There were fears over the hole Josh Hodgson's injury would leave in the side but Havili quickly alleviated those concerns when he scored a try minutes into his club debut against the Titans.

He has scored three tries so far this season and has two try assists in the last three games. This week he comes up against his old club, having joined the Raiders from Dragons at the start of the year.

Cameron McInnes has also had a great start to the year, so good in fact that he is one of a number of Dragons who have played their way into the State of Origin discussion.

He's a constant threat out of dummy half and he plays his role as a member of the Dragons' formidable spine.

He has also been a big part of the Dragons defence since joining the club in 2017, making 368 tackles so far this season and a whopping 72 tackles when these sides met last year.

Joseph Leilua vs Euan Aitken

Joseph Leilua has again shown the key role he plays in the Raiders' attack with the rediscovery of his combination with Jordan Rapana coinciding with the Raiders' winning run over the last six weeks.

He is a player that makes the opposition defence nervous every time he gets his hands on the ball and he loves to keep the play going, having thrown the fourth most offloads in the NRL.

Euan Aitken is another Dragons player that may have played his way into a New South Wales Blues jersey this season.

He has been a constant threat in attack all year and he has already scored seven tries, the equal third most. If the Raiders are to win on Sunday, they will have done so by closing down this try-scoring centre.

Quote of the Week:

"This week will be a good test for us, we'll have to go up another level again." -Charlie Gubb

Head to Head: The Raiders have an excellent record against the St George Illawarra Dragons, they've won 17 of the 28 meetings with one draw to go along with the Dragons' ten wins.

This of course includes the Raiders' fantastic run from 2002-2013 where they lost just one of 17 matches against the Dragons during that time.