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With only five rounds to go, the race for finals is heating up. The Canberra Raiders will need a big win over the St George-Illawarra Dragons at 6pm this Friday at Cbus Super Stadium to stay in the finals race.

After a slow start against the Knights last week, the men in green will want to get out to a fast start against a Dragons team who are desperate to keep their finals hopes alive.

The Raiders welcome back Ryan Sutton from injury and Matt Timoko will start at right centre for the injured Sebastian Kris. Hudson Young returns to the starting side, while young outside back Elijah Anderson will become Raider #378 when he comes off the bench.

The Dragons will boosted by a raft of players returning from COVID breach bans, including strike centre Zac Lomax.

Last Time They Met

The Raiders lost to the Dragons 22-20 in round 15 earlier this year.

Key Match-ups

Hudson Young v Tariq Sims

Hudson Young’s hard running and aggressive defence will be needed on Friday when he goes against NSW Origin star Tariq Sims.

Young has been an explosive force on the field this season. Whether he’s coming off the bench, playing on the edge or playing in the middle. He can break tackles, offload through contact and generate quick play the ball.

Young also brings his trademark passion and aggression to every aspect of his game and gives the Raiders a spark whenever he is on the field.

Tariq Sims has had an outstanding season for the Dragons, and the veteran was also a standout in Origin for NSW. Much like young, Sims brings skill, passion and aggression to the Dragons’ forward pack.

Jack Wighton v Corey Norman

Both teams will be looking to their veteran playmakers to put up their hands and take their team to victory.

In recent years, Jack Wighton has been crucial in the Raiders finals runs, coming up with the big plays when the team has needed him to. As the Raiders get to the pointy end of the 2021 season, Wighton again can be a true game-breaker for the Green Machine.

His speed and strength running the ball give defences nightmares, and with Elliott Whitehead back in the side, Wighton’s combinations down the left edge will make the Raiders’ attack all the more dangerous.

With Ben Hunt out with a broken arm, Corey Norman will have to step up his game as the Dragons’ senior playmaker. On his best day, Norman’s elusive running and inventive kicking game can create a real danger for any opposition.

Semi Valemei v Mikaele Ravalawa

One of the by-products of the new NRL rules is the increasing importance of outside backs carrying the football and taking hit-ups. Their ability to get teams on the front foot and take pressure off fatiguing forwards is more important than ever due to the speed of the game.

Semi Valemei has been a standout ball carrier for the Raiders. The flying Fijian has averaged over 160 run meters in his last four games, charging fearlessly at opposing defences with speed, power and agression.

If Valemei can produce some big set starts for the Raiders, it will allow the Raiders forwards more room to run on the ball and put the Dragons defence on the back foot early on.

Valemei will be up against fellow Fijian Mikaele Ravalwa. Ravalawa is a destrutive ball runner, who loves to put on a bit hit in defence. The Raiders’ kickchase will have to be on point to contain the big winger, otherwise it will be a tough day at the office for the men in green.

Match Highlights: Raiders v Dragons

Head to Head

Canberra has played St George-Illawarra 34 times, with 20 wins, 12 losses and two draws.