The Canberra Raiders will be looking for a big performance to keep their finals hopes alive when they take on the St George Illawarra Dragons at WIN Stadium this Saturday at 5:30pm.
Last week, the Raiders rediscovered their attacking mojo, scoring a season-high 38 points against the Broncos. The performance was anchored by a massive game from Bailey Simonsson, who, in his first game at fullback for the Raiders had some moments of sheer brilliance. His pass to set up Semi Valemi for a try will be on highlight reels for years to come.
The Raiders will undoubtedly want a repeat performance in attack against the Dragons. They will look to their young but incredibly talented outside backs in Sebastian Kris, Matthew Timoko, Semi Valemei and Bailey Simonsson to threaten the Dragons defence.
The Dragons, meanwhile, are coming off a shock loss to the Bulldogs and will be looking to bounce back against the Raiders. Against the Bulldogs, the Dragons only scored six points and could not find any rhythm in their attack.
This match will be a crucial game for both teams. A win for the Raiders could get them into the top eight, while a loss for the Dragons would mean they would undoubtedly drop out.
Fullback for Dragons is number 20 Tyrell SloanFullback for Raiders is number 1 Bailey Simonsson
Winger for Dragons is number 2 Cody RamseyWinger for Raiders is number 2 Semi Valemei
Centre for Dragons is number 3 Brayden WiliameCentre for Raiders is number 3 Sebastian Kris
Centre for Dragons is number 4 Gerard BealeCentre for Raiders is number 4 Matthew Timoko
Winger for Dragons is number 5 Mikaele RavalawaWinger for Raiders is number 5 Jordan Rapana
Five-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Corey NormanFive-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Jack Wighton
Halfback for Dragons is number 7 Ben HuntHalfback for Raiders is number 7 Sam Williams
Prop for Dragons is number 8 Blake LawrieProp for Raiders is number 8 Josh Papalii
Hooker for Dragons is number 9 Andrew McCulloughHooker for Raiders is number 9 Josh Hodgson
Prop for Dragons is number 15 Josh KerrProp for Raiders is number 10 Dunamis Lui
2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Tariq Sims2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 Corey Harawira-Naera
2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Jack Bird2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Elliott Whitehead
Lock for Dragons is number 17 Jack De BelinLock for Raiders is number 16 Iosia Soliola
Interchange for Dragons is number 10 Paul VaughanInterchange for Raiders is number 13 Ryan Sutton
Interchange for Dragons is number 16 Daniel AlvaroInterchange for Raiders is number 14 Tom Starling
Interchange for Dragons is number 18 Adam CluneInterchange for Raiders is number 15 Emre Guler
Interchange for Dragons is number 22 Billy BurnsInterchange for Raiders is number 17 Joseph Tapine
Reserve for Dragons is number 19 Poasa FaamausiliReserve for Raiders is number 18 Xavier Savage
- Referee: Chris Sutton
- Touch Judge: Nick Beashel
- Touch Judge: Jon Stone
- Senior Review Official: Alan Shortall
The Raiders beat the Dragons 37-8 in round 18 last year.
Bailey Simonsson v Matt Dufty
Bailey Simonsson was a standout for the Raiders last week, with 243 run meters and two try assists. More importantly, his playmaking ability helped take the pressure of Jack Wighton, who was able to play his more natural running game.
The big task for Simonsson this week will be putting in a repeat performance. Simonsson's playmaking combined with his natural athletic ability could be the key to unlocking the Raiders attack for the rest of the season.
Dragons’ fullback Matt Dufty will also be wanting to put in a big performance. Dufty has electric speed and possesses one of the best cut-out passes in the NRL. He will be an integral part of the Dragons’ attack this Saturday.
The Raiders will want to try and limit Dufty’s impact with a strong kick chase and an aggressive defensive line. These tactics will help to restrict Dufty’s space.
Moment of the week: Simonsson pass sets up Valemei
Corey Harawira-Naera v Jack Bird
It will be a battle of two of the fastest forwards in the competition when Corey Harawira-Naera and Jack Bird go head to head this weekend.
Harawira-Naera came into the Raiders' first-grade side after an impressive stint in the NSW Cup. He has continued that form in the NRL and has been of the Raiders’ more dynamic attacking weapons.
His try last week against the Broncos showcased his pace, and he’ll be looking for more opportunities to burn defenders against the Dragons.
Jack Bird has struggled with injuries over the years, but he provides his team with dynamic athleticism and excellent ball skills when he takes the field.
Bird is playing in the forwards this week, but he has also played at centre and fullback throughout his career, so he’ll bring plenty of pace to the Dragons’ pack. His ability to offload the ball in contact will have to be contained by the Raiders’ defence, as he already has five try assist this season.
Josh Papalii v Paul Vaughan
The battle between these two Origin props will be one to watch. On their best day, both Papalii and ex-Raider Vaughan can completely change the momentum of a game.
After missing time due to suspension, Josh Papalii made an impactful return to the Raiders first-grade side with a dominant performance against the Broncos. He led the Raiders forwards in run meters and capped off his night by scoring a try.
This week, the man with the best mullet in rugby league will want to lay a platform for the Raiders with strong runs and quick play the balls.
Paul Vaughan will be the Dragons go-to man to help them get back into the win column. Vaughan is an ultra-professional - he always gets through a ton of hard work and rarely misses a tackle. He’ll hope to lead the Dragons' pack by example on the weekend.
Head to Head
The Raiders have played the Dragons 32 times with 20 wins,11 losses and one draw.