NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Bulldogs

The Canberra Raiders will battle to keep their finals hopes alive when they face the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Belmore Oval on Saturday night.

The Raiders lost to the Brisbane Broncos 26-22 at Suncorp Stadium last week after leading 16-0 at half time.

The Bulldogs snapped a four-game losing streak to beat the Newcastle Knights 36-16 in what may have been their best win of the season so far.

Both sides have only made one change to their 17 from last week, both of which were forced on the clubs by State of Origin.

Clay Priest has come in for David Klemmer for the Bulldogs and Sam Williams has come in for Josh Papalii for the Raiders.

Williams has been named at five-eighth with Blake Austin moving to the bench and Siliva Havili has been named to start at lock.

Last time: The Raiders beat the Bulldogs in a gutsy 26-10 win in round five earlier this season for their first win of the 2018 season.

Canberra lost three backs to injury during the clash and spent the entire second half with only one fit player on the bench.

The Raiders overcame their injury dramas with a Jarrod Croker double from the wing and Aiden Sezer's kicking game the stand-out performances.

Key Matchups

Nick Cotric vs Brett Morris

Nick Cotric has been brilliant for the Raiders this season, playing his way into the Origin frame. He has scored eight tries in his last seven games and leads the NRL in line breaks.

He has used his incredible strength to push pass defenders all season and has made 91 tackle breaks so far, the second most in the league. He will be expecting to continue his good form on Saturday and cross for another try as he rises up the list of top try scorers in 2018.

As Cotric continues to develop and pushes for his first taste of representative football, the Bulldogs have a winger on the opposite end of the spectrum who has seen it all.

This year is Brett Morris' 13th season in the NRL and in that time he has scored 143 NRL tries, amassed 18 caps for Australia and played State of Origin 15 times. His form has been good again this year, having scored five tries in his last five games, but one of his biggest attributes this season has been the experience he brings to an inexperienced group of backs.

Expect these two wingers in try-scoring form to be itching to get over the stripe again this week.

Elliot Whitehead vs Josh Jackson

Elliot Whitehead has had a great couple of games for club and country. After scoring a double in a man of the match performance for England in Denver, Whitehead opened the scoring for the Raiders last weekend with a 40-metre dash for the try line after he scooped up the loose ball and dummied his way past Darius Boyd.

It isn't just his recent form, Whitehead has already scored eight tries this season. Early on in the year it seemed to be every game that Whitehead was forced to play in the centres or the halves to cover for injuries but some recently Whitehead has been allowed to get extended minutes in the second row and he's excelled as a result.

Josh Jackson has had a tough job this season. Captaining the Bulldogs with all of their financial difficulties and seeing some of their best players leave mid-season can't be easy but Jackson has performed admirably. His defence has been impressive, making 521 tackles so far this year at an efficiency rate above 90%. He was rewarded for his hard work last week with a try in the Bulldogs' win.

If the Bulldogs are to win this week they'll need a real captain's knock from Jackson so if Whitehead can win this matchup he'll take the Raiders a step closer to the two competition points.

Brad Abbey vs Will Hopoate

Last week, these two both started at fullback for the first time this season and they will again wear the number one jersey on Saturday night.

Will Hopoate had been enjoying playing in his preferred centre position but Moses Mbye's midseason switch to the Wests Tigers saw him shifted to fullback. The Bulldogs were able to win last week with Hopoate at the back though and he even contributed a try assist.

Brad Abbey made the jump to the NRL from Mounties last week and was an attacking threat whenever he had the ball in his hands. Abbey finished with two tackle breaks and never looked out of his depth.

With another 80 minutes of first grade under his belt he'll be an even better footballer and look for him to insert himself into the game even more during his sixth match in the NRL.

"Until you come to Canberra you don't realise how good it is, the support we get from the community and local friends and families is something you can't pay for." -Sia Soliola on re-signing with the Club this week.

Head to head: The Bulldogs have had the edge in the past winning 39 of the previous 68 clashes.
Canberra have only won against Canterbury 29 times, although they have won three of the last four.