The Canberra Raiders will be looking for back-to-back wins when they host the South Sydney Rabbitohs at GIO Stadium on Saturday night.
Last week’s Grand Final replay against the Roosters was the clash that Raiders fans were hoping for. The physical game has sidelined Michael Oldfield for a few weeks, but if the gutsy win proved anything, it’s that the depth of the Canberra side is something to boast about.
The Bunnies will be searching for a win following their 18 – 20 defeat to the Knights on the weekend. South Sydney almost got away with the game after trailing for 65 minutes, with three tries in eight minutes in the final quarter, however, the Knights just managed to hold on.
Here are six things we’re looking forward to in round 11.
Siliva Havili and Tom Starling did not disappoint when they took turns in the key playmaker role in place of the injured Josh Hodgson.
Havili started in the number nine position against the Roosters and had a hand in the first try of the match with a dummy half run that drew defenders in before a couple of quick passes for Dunamis Lui to score.
Lui scores as Raiders bust Roosters through the middle
Havili handled the plays for the first 30 minutes of the game until Starling received the call-up and played out the remaining 50 minutes with a huge performance in his first game since the Mounties defeated the Sea Eagles on 15 March 2020.
With 77 receipts, two tackle breaks, 22 post-contact metres and a try assist, Starling's stats tell the tale of an in-form, determined young hooker who’s ready to make his mark in the NRL.
Both players are exciting to watch and will no doubt improve with each opportunity they get to play in the side, and with different styles of play to Hodgson and each other, South Sydney will need to be on their game.
Dunamis Lui seems to have taken a leaf from Hodgson's playbook, pulling off two one-on-one strips against the Roosters to regain possession and keep the momentum going for Canberra.
Since the loss of Sia Soliola and Emre Guler against the Dragons, Lui has stepped up his game, running over 100m, playing bigger minutes and having a greater impact on the field.
The Rabbitohs pack will have a tough job on their hands trying to keep Lui quiet while he’s on such a hot streak.
Play of the week: Lui strips it twice
Josh Papalii has scored in his last two games with a total of four so far this season, and the try-scoring machine no doubt has more to come.
The representative heavyweight has been referred to as one of the best in the game which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s seen him play. With a massive 218 running metres and 187 hit up running metres against the Roosters, the Raiders veteran plays a huge part in their success and is definitely a leading figure in the Raiders side.
The in-form Raiders forward will be ready to drag some Bunnies over the line with him this weekend, inching closer to his try-scoring record of eight in the 2015 season.
Papalii cruises over as Roosters defence left wanting
After a short turn around between Melbourne and Sydney, Canberra earned themselves a much-needed rest with a nine-day turnaround this week. The already depleted side is seemingly prone to injuries at the moment, so the extra few days rest this week couldn’t have come at a better time.
Michael Oldfield suffered a hamstring injury against the Roosters, taking him out of the starting squad for a couple of weeks, and with Curtis Scott’s arm infection still undergoing assessment, there will likely be some movement in the side which could see Jordan Rapana play in the centres again to make room on the wing for Semi Valemei who made his debut last week.
Back to back
Canberra haven’t gone back to back in 2020 since the start of the season when they won three in a row. Following their huge performance against the Roosters last week, the Green Machine will no doubt be fired up and keen to keep the ball rolling and maintain their spot on the ladder.
A South Sydney win would level them up with the Raiders on 12 competition points, but the Raiders won’t go down easily.
After playing at the Sydney Cricket Ground last week, the Raiders will welcome to chance to play at home on the familiar field at GIO. There may be a couple of Bunnies fans in the crowd, but the Raiders will have the bulk of the 1500 members allowed in the stadium.
South Sydney have won six of the 12 games they’ve played in Canberra, but they haven’t faced the freezing July temperatures since 2014 which will no doubt give the locals the edge.