The Canberra Raiders are coming off a tough loss and will want to get back to winning ways when they take on the Parramatta Eels at GIO Stadium at 7:35 pm on Saturday.
In what should be a barn burner of a match, the Raiders and Eels will be looking to throw everything at each other after both teams came off second best in round five.
The Raiders had periods of dominance against the top of the table Panthers last week and will have to do the same for the whole 80-minutes to win against an Eels team that went unbeaten for the first four rounds.
With the loss of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to a neck injury, Caleb Aekins will debut at fullback - becoming Raider #375. In a boost for the Raiders, Josh Hodgson will start at hooker, despite leaving the field last week with a hip issue. Curtis Scott returns from injury to start in the centres and Emre Guler comes into the NRL side for the first time this year.
Last Time They Met
The Raiders and Eels played out a golden point thriller in round seven last season. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad scored two tries in the last 10 minutes to take the score to 24-24 before Clint Gutherson kicked the winning field goal for the Eels.
Josh Papalii v Junior Paulo
Two of the most intimidating props in the game will clash when Papalii and former Raider, Paulo, battle it out in the centre of the field on Saturday night.
Papalii leads the Raiders’ forwards in run meters and averages 148 meters per game. He loves to offload in the tackle, giving the Raiders an opportunity for second-phase play, and he is always a threat to score a try from close range.
Paulo may not be the meter eater that Papalii is but that doesn’t mean he is any less dangerous. The big prop runs with a lot of power but also has the ability to ball play like a five-eighth; he is as likely to run you over as he is to throw a cut-out pass.
Jack Wighton v Will Smith
When Jack Wighton plays well, the Raiders play well. Wighton’s skill set with the ball in hand makes the reigning Dally M medalist one of the best running halves in the competition.
As his combination with George Williams continues to improve, the Raiders will look to Wighton and Williams to provide fluency in attack and make the most of the team’s opportunities near the Eels goal line.
Will Smith comes in for the suspended Dylan Brown and will be essential in the Eels chances for victory. With Brown gone, key player maker Mitch Moses will be under immense pressure from the Raiders’ defence, Smith will have to provide the Eels with quality halves play to help ease the pressure on Moses.
Ryan Sutton v Isaiah Papali’i
The middle of the field will be a battlefield on Saturday, and both teams will need the benches to keep up the pressure on the opposition.
Sutton and Papali’i have been both in excellent form to start the season, whether coming off the bench or in the starting line-up. This week they’ll both come off the bench and will inject their hard-running, hard-hitting playing style to create momentum through the middle of the field.
Head to Head
The Raiders and Eels have played 62 times. The Raiders have won 31, lost 29 and drawn 2.