The Canberra Raiders will look to return to the winner’s circle as they face the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday.
After a frustrating afternoon last time out against the Newcastle Knights, the Green Machine will be itching for a better defensive display as they leaked 34 points to a potent Newcastle side.
The Tigers will also be keen to eradicate what they did in round 4, following a heartbreaking 28-23 loss to a determined Gold Coast Titans side. Tigers stalwart Benji Marshall looked to have the game won with a late field goal, but it would be trumped by a late Titans try.
Although boasting one of the most mobile forward packs in the competition, the Raiders were outplayed in the middle third of the park and will need their forwards to fire early.
Two competition points separate the two sides after four rounds of play, Canberra are in fourth position, while the Tigers are in ninth. The Raiders have had the wood over the Tigers in recent times, winning six from the last seven and posting some mammoth scores in the process.
The Tigers will have ‘home ground advantage’ playing at one of their traditional home grounds at Campbelltown, although the last time these two sides met at this venue, the Raiders ran riot lead by a returning Josh Hodgson with a 48-12 victory.
Both sides like to play an entertaining style and with the new rules in place which has sped up the ruck, this clash has the potential for plenty of points.
The Raiders are unchanged heading into the clash, with Ryan Sutton joining the extended bench returning from a calf injury.
The Raiders paid homage to the premiership winning 1989 side on 'forever green' night with a gritty 20-12 victory. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad channelled his inner Gary Belcher in a resounding performance where he would score one try and put his body on the line to prevent the Tigers from having any chance of victory.
Jarrod Croker vs Joey Leilua
A match-up with plenty of history, Croker and Leilua will meet in an intriguing battle with both men playing together for the better part of the past five seasons.
Croker will be keen to register his first four-pointer of the year, in what is a mini drought for the Raiders all-time leading scorer, he has still been effective registering three try assists.
The Raiders co-captain has made a career of breaking tackles and currently averages 2.3 tackle busts per game this season.
Leilua was released from the Raiders to pursue an opportunity with the Tigers in the pre-season and the barnstorming centre will be keen to prove that the Raiders that he is one of the best in the business. The hard-running centre already has 16 tackle busts this season.
The Raiders run a lot of their attack down the left edge, with Croker receiving plenty of ball and with a dangerous offload, Leilua and company will be very busy trying to contain the left side.
Jack Wighton vs Josh Reynolds
An exciting battle of two halves with both players poses a roaming threat with their dangerous running games.
Wighton established himself as one of the game’s best running halves in 2019 and he has started this season in familiar fashion registering three tries in four games.
The Clive Churchill medal winner has a massive kicking game and averages 237.1 kicking metres per game.
Reynolds has yet to feature in the halves for Tigers this season, but he has made a career out of his dangerous running game and his unorthodox step which has caused many defences plenty of headaches.
Both players can create something out of nothing, expect both players to have a major role for their sides in this clash.
Josh Hodgson vs Harry Grant
An intriguing battle of two number nines who are in opposite ends of their respective careers, Hodgson is one of the premier rakes in the competition while Grant has shown plenty of potential in his four career games to date.
Hodgson has had a wonderful start to 2020 with many touting him as the game’s best hooker. The English International has taken control of his side since his arrival in Canberra in 2015, which takes plenty of pressure off the halves.
A disappointing game against Newcastle where he still mustered up 41 tackles, Hodgson will quickly want to forget that one and will be eager to steer his side to a victory.
Grant joined the Tigers on loan from the Strom and is regarded as one of the competitions hottest prospects. In his two games with the Tigers, he has already made 91 tackles with a 96% efficiency rate. Grant will be looking to prove he can match it with one of the best in the world with a big performance.
Expect both men to come out with a point to prove, the battle of the hookers will go a long way in deciding the outcome of this match.
Head to head: In 37 matches played between these teams, the Tigers have a slight advantage registering 19 compared to the Raiders 18.
NRL.com Preview: Wests Tigers v Raiders - Round 5