After four agonising losses the Raiders finally came good, turning in a heartening display against a tepid Bulldogs outfit. The defensive effort in particular was much stronger than the opening four rounds, and the Raiders didn’t concede a second try until they were down three players in the dying seconds.
They’ll need to build on the confidence of last weekend, as they now host a winless Eels side at GIO Stadium. Parramatta are the only team without a win to their name, and they’ll now be extra keen to grab two points and start reeling in some of those teams just ahead on the ladder.
Both teams lost personnel in the last round – the Raiders find themselves without the services of Sam Williams, while the Eels will be missing Nathan Brown. Both sides however do welcome back their primary custodians – Jack Wighton for the Raiders and Clint Gutherson for the Eels.
What a difference a week makes. After a turgid showing against Manly the Raiders pack aimed up against the Dogs and it showed. Soliola, Boyd, Paulo, heck even Bateman all displayed effort throughout the 80 minutes. But for me, and surely many others, the start forward was Joseph Tapine. He didn’t run huge metres (89 metres on 9 runs at 9.8 a run) but he was absolutely tremendous in defence, harnessing the energy to cover much of the defensive workload on his edge and effecting some key one-on-one tackles.
Papalii resumes a bench spot this week, and you can be sure that coach Stuart will have had a quiet word with him about the need to put in for a full performance.
The Eels find themselves without key forward Brown, whose aggressive defence helped spark them a bit last weekend. Moeroa moves to lock, while T-rex Williams comes on as a starting prop, with Daniel Alvaro taking a spot on the bench. The Parra forwards have had issues with ball security over their first five games and will need to make sure the pill is secure for every carry.
A Mighty Fine Spine
Sezer set the game alight last round, and Raiders fans will be hoping he can continue that scintillating form. His short kicking game close to the line was on point for two great Croker tries. Austin returns this week courtesy of an injured Williams, and you’d be hoping that Sticky has told him to let Sezer run the show. Austin’s forte is in broken field support, so he needs to shadow the inside forwards and try and find gaps around the middle.
Commendation too for Havili, who suddenly found himself playing nearly a whole game after Hingano left the field. To his credit he managed to keep his energy levels up until the end and kept giving quick distribution to those around the ruck.
Beware Mitch Moses. After the frustrating loss to the Panthers you can bet he’ll be ready to orchestrate all kinds of chaos, and he seems to be slowly but surely assuming the organizers role in place of Corey Norman, who like most five-eighths is a more instinctual player.
You Can Do It (Put Your Backs Into It)
Wacky Jacky is back, and hopefully should be motivated by a new child and the need to show his employers what he’s worth. Cotric swings back to the wing after a strong showing at fullback, while Rapana and Leilua will look to build on their combination abilities from last round.
The Eels finally get their man back in the form of Gutho, which moves Bevan French back to the wing. Strangely enough this sees Josh Hoffman dumped from the team, which for me is a bit harsh considering his efforts over the first five rounds. George Jennings making it past the cut is criminal.
Off The Pine
Boyd – Showed good work against the Dogs, and can be a very effective carrier when brought on against a tiring defence.
Hingano – We still haven’t really seen enough from Atat to know where he’s at, so here’s hoping he gets more minutes this week.
Lui – Had some good defensive moments against the Dogs, but deserves true props (geddit!?) for his 162 metres off 14 carries (avg 11.57), including a nifty 60 post contact metres.
Papalii – Needs to be clear of the hamburger hangover. Some strong runs and hits on the edges should do the trick.
The Eels will have the services of Scott, Edwards (Here’s trouble), Alvaro and Evans.
Where It Can Be Won
The Raiders need replicate and then enhance the effort from last week. If they can get on top of the Eels defensively they take control of the game and unleash the points.
Raiders by 12!