When does a winning streak begin? It’s something of a grey question, but one that the Raiders have been trying to answer over the last few rounds. The (1st half) Warriors have been the toughest beatable side they faced thus far, and it was their effort and lift in intensity during the 3rd quarter that saw them repel the Warriors before landing the killer blow.
The Raiders face the Sydney version of the Warriors this week, albeit with much worse fringe defence. Stuart and his charges must be salivating over the tapes of the Storm vs Sea Eagles game, where the Manly left edge constantly let in tries, largely courtesy of Blake Green (I’m not very well informed on Green but from what I can see he’s a bit of a turnstile).
Manly managed to fight back against a Storm side still struggling with a few structural and handling issues, but it was to no avail. Their misery may well be compounded this Friday night, as the Raiders continue their early season development. The Green Machine had arguably their best defensive game of the season thus far last round, and their goal line tactic of executing the right hand sweep to LeiPana wreaks havoc on defenders who slide on their lines (cough Manly cough).
Between a Pack and a Hard Place
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Raiders forwards effort last week was the fact that they did it using only seven players. With only Bateman and Soliola seeing game time from the bench the Raiders managed to roll the Warriors up the middle, and the Kiwis used all four of their proper forwards off the bench.
Conversely the Sea Eagles were pretty quiet in the engine room (although so were the Storm). They’ll need to aim up big time if they wish to constrain the likes of Boyd, Paulo and Papalii in the middle corridor. With Hodgson directing traffic like a controller at Heathrow the Raiders forwards are able to make massive inroads into defensive lines, either sucking multiple defenders in behind the ruck (Boyd & Paulo) or dragging defenders across field (Papalii).
Everything is (mostly) going to plan with the playmaking trio. Hodgson is back to near-peak awesomeness after a quiet start to the year, his passing and vision around the ruck once again on par with Cam Smith. His short kicking game is astute as ever, although we’d love to see a 40/20 in the near future.
Sezer can only be accused of running it more (a good thing), along with his always on-point mid-to-short range kicking game.
And a special rap for Austin, who added yet another skill to his bag of tricks – the Torpedo bomb. As if it wasn’t hard enough to field a kick that’s coming down out of the lights at Canberra Stadium, Austin can now make its landing zone a 10sqm area, with physics adding extra unpredictability.
The Raiders spine makes the Eagles playmakers look practically worthless, especially Blake Green, who seems to be having a hard time adjusting to his new home. Players who leave the Storm never get better.
Put Your Back(s) Into It
If Joey Leilua doesn’t make it into either the ANZAC test or Game 1 of Origin you can assume that the Australian/Blues selectors are suffering from the same condition that afflicts their Australian Cricket counterparts. His efforts not just on the wing but also early in the count through the middle are key to the Raiders establishing a forward base (geddit!?), from which the big boppers can launch the next wave.
His contribution in the right hand sweep may be seen by some as a binary mode, either grounding the ball or giving it to Rapana, but it could be argued there’s not many other centres who guarantee such a high return on what is now a pretty predictable play.
Speaking of the sweep, go back and watch the round 7 highlights and take note of Wighton’s involvement in the play. We’ve long known of his importance of chiming in on the left, and he’s now equally important on the right, forcing defenders to choose between his angled run to the sideline or Whitehead’s straighter advance to the line (Wighton will inevitably find a chance to offload to Whitehead and give the Englishman another try).
The Manly left side defence was in all kinds of disarray against the Storm, and they can expect more of the same from the Raiders right.
The Sea Eagles let the whole NRL see their weak point in round 7, and if there’s one team that can exploit it it’s the Green Machine. Expect plenty of kicks to the right in an effort to tire those defenders out before the next attack is unleashed.
Raiders by 12!