In round 1 the Raiders showed they had the defensive verve to go toe to toe with competition heavyweights like the Cowboys.
In round 2 they wilted in the face of a focused and determined Sharks side.
In round 3 they clicked into gear, dismantled the Tigers and ended Jason Taylors’ time with Wests.
In round 4 they get the chance to take everything they’ve learned in those three games and test their mettle against the Broncos. At Suncorp.
The Broncos currently sit in 9th, below the Raiders in 8th, both with two competition points. The Broncos two points are an understatement. They outperformed the Sharks in round 1, and then lost two nail-biters to the Cowboys and Storm in rounds 2 and 3. If the Raiders are to be considered a serious chance in 2017 they need to bring an A+++ game against Brisbane.
Last Sundays’ game was essentially a 60 minute training drill. Once the Tigers lost the plot the Raiders were free to try on whatever attacking method seemed appropriate at that point. From kicks on the run (Rapana) to mid-field breaks (Rapana again) to red-zone raids (Papalii) the Raiders had simply too many ways in which to skin a rather large, but lame, cat.
With that in mind, one can only hope they spent the week focussed almost entirely on defensive issues. The same 17 from last week have been named to play, with Tapine an early longshot as 22nd man on the bench. They need to be ready for the Broncos, because the Broncos are essentially the Queensland version of the Storm, with a touch more flair.
The Storm aim to break down opponents with set after set of hypnotic and clinically structured set plays. The Broncos are much the same, they come in waves, waiting for that one wrong read in defence. The Storm do all of this from within their preys 20 metre zone, pinning them against the try line and slowly working them over until they crack.
The Broncos prefer to strike from mid-field, a lot like the Raiders, and it is here that the Green Machine will need to be ready for a play to unfold. Energy management for the big forwards will be key, as they’ll need to be on guard against sneak ruck attacks from Milford and co.
Between a Hard Place and a Pack
Against Woods and his cubs the Raider engine room went on a rampage, destroying them both in the middle and on the fringes. Man of the match Papalii was exemplary in his go-forward attitude, making one quarter of his metres after contact. Paulo, Priest, Soliola and Taylor all broke into triple digits with their running, and those who didn’t, such as Boyd, had limited time (in which he still made positive contributions).
If these big boppers are managed well by Sticky they’ll go a long way towards curbing the impact of Thaiday, Mcguire and others. The Brisbane pack may not be the biggest in the comp, but they are one of the best at endurance battles across 80 minutes.
Sezer had a weird obsession with cut out passes against the Tigers. He threw three of these in the game, and all three had negative outcomes. The main problem with this pass is it takes the ball to the sideline too soon. Poor Cotric found himself with nowhere to go after he received one of these, and they’re a play which can only be used by the most skilful of halves. Until he can time these right Sezer needs to stick to unleashing a chain of short passes, or decoy short balls to inside runners (his short ball to put Papalii through was spot on)
Austin continues to improve his kicking abilities, especially in mid to short range scenarios. His diagonal kick to the post late in the game was good enough for Rapana to clean up and score (admittedly it feathered off a Tigers’ hand, but it still would have been the same result untouched). Combined with his immense dropouts his kicking repertoire is slowly filling up with pleasing touches.
Hodgson has been somewhat quiet for the last two rounds. Don’t get us wrong, he’s still the apple of our very green eyes, and his quick service and vision from dummy half is one of the factors that allowed the Raiders to manhandle Wests, but we’re just waiting for that moment of individual brilliance, perhaps a 40/20 or a nifty try assist.
Of course all three will need to be at their individual and team-centric best if they want to put one over Milford, Hunt and McCullough. Hunt’s scything run to score himself against the Storm was brilliant in its determination.
Put Your Back(s) Into It
Once they got going Canberra’s backline were unstoppable on Sunday. Rapana was everywhere, kicking, running, breaking through the ruck, scooping up chips. Wighton continued to show that his last line defensive input is top flight, easily bundling a Tiger into touch and preventing a try. Croker and Cotric bonded faster than super glue, and could well be on their way to forming a partnership ala LeiPana (CroTric?)
Against them stand the Likes of Darius Boyd, Oates and Kahu, which should make for an impressive battle between the backlines.
Canberra are facing an ongoing trial-by-fire in these opening rounds, and there’s nothing more searing than a Friday night game at Suncorp against Brisbane. If they can knuckle down and defend they’ll be in with a chance of rounding up the Broncos.
Raiders by 4!