TWL RD 3 PREVIEW: WARRIORS V RAIDERS

CANBERRA RAIDERS V NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS – 3PM (AEDT)/5PM (NZT) SATURDAY, MARCH 24 @ GIO STADIUM

The Storyline: The Warriors are chasing the first 3-0 start to a season in their history after winning their opening two games for the first time since 2009. The feelgood factor is palpable – and desperately-needed – while it was encouraging to see the NRL’s perennial enigma back up the watershed win over Souths in Perth in Round 1 with a solid victory at home over Gold Coast.

But the Warriors are probably getting too much credit for the 20-8 defeat of the Titans. Sure, it was entertaining, but the Titans’ lacklustre defence allowed the hosts to offload at will. Meanwhile, Ash Taylor’s absence meant they threw little at the Warriors with the ball. The Warriors should have won by more but their ability to finish a plethora of opportunities left a bit to be desired.

Similar carelessness with the ball is likely to be punished by an under-pressure Canberra side, who are 0-2 after back-to-back 30-28 losses to the Titans and Knights, conceding late tries to go down in both.

There’s big problems in the key playmaking positions for the Raiders, but their giant pack and electric outside-backs will ensure the Warriors have their hands full all day long. The Raiders will test the Warriors in ways the Rabbitohs and Titans were unable to.

Isaiah Papali’i and Sam Cook are out of the Warriors’ line-up, replaced by Agantius Paasi and Jazz Tevaga. Ex-Warrior Charlie Gubb has been ruled out of the Raiders’ squad with injury, but Joey Leilua has been cleared and Joe Tapine is a chance of returning.

The History: Played 38 – Canberra won 21, Warriors won 17

READ: THE RIVALRY – WARRIORS V RAIDERS

The Stats

-The Raiders have won four straight against the Warriors.
-The Raiders have won 11 of their last 13 against the Warriors at GIO Stadium.
-Jarrod Croker has scored 17 tries in just 16 games against the Warriors, and has scored 16-plus points in five of the last 12 meetings between the clubs.
-Shaun Johnson has two 26-point hauls against Canberra to his name.
-Eight of the teams’ last nine encounters were decided by margins of 12 points or more.

3 Key Match-ups

Shannon Boyd v Adam Blair: After a middling season in 2017, Shannon Boyd is again showing the rampaging front-row form that earned him a Kangaroos call-up a year earlier. He’s averaging 134 metres – including 62 post-contact metres per game – and is defending strong. Adam Blair is key to the Warriors stifling the Raiders’ go-forward roll with his busy defence, while the Warriors need more work from him on the other side of the ball – the incumbent Kiwis captain is averaging just 73 metres a game.

Jordan Rapana v Ken Maumalo: Bizarrely, the Rabbitohs and Titans barely targeted defensive liability Maumalo in the opening two rounds…but opposing wingers Richard Kennar and Anthony Don still managed to score a try on him in each match. Jordan Rapana is as good a finisher as there is in the game – he only needs a couple of inches of space to snatch four points. Maumalo is likely to give him considerably more than that, while providing Rapana with few difficult defensive assignments on the Raiders’ line.

Aidan Sezer v Blake Green: The Raiders’ playmaking shuffle continues with Blake Austin dropping back to the bench and Sezer reacquiring the No.6 role. With Sam Williams more of an organiser, the Raiders need some spark and thrust from Sezer. Blake Green has been superb in his two games as a Warrior, directing traffic and providing the halves stability for Shaun Johnson to go off on his tangents.

Under the Pump: With Issac Luke fit, firing and capable of playing 80 minutes, rookie Sam Cook drops off the interchange to get some ISP game-time. That brings the more versatile Jazz Tevaga onto the bench. It’s a big chance for Tevaga – who has 15 NRL games to his credit – to show that he is more than just a fill-in. No one doubts his heart, but Tevaga seems too small to play backrow and too slow to play hooker to first-grade standard.

Last Time They Met: Soon-to-be Dally M Rookie of the Year Nick Cotric scored two tries and Jarrod Croker racked up 16 points as the Raiders romped to a 36-16 win at Mount Smart in Round 23 last year. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was the lone shining light for the home side.

Why We’ll Win: The Warriors have early form on the board, a new defensive steel and plenty of confidence. Their forwards have been outstanding, allowing the likes of Luke, Johnson and Tuivasa-Sheck – the positions the Warriors boast a major individual advantage over the Raiders – to shine on the back of their platform. Conversely, the Raiders have self-destructed in both games so far and are lacking confidence.

Why We’ll Lose: The Raiders are desperate for a win and will come out firing, using their big engine-room to get on top of the Warriors’ compact pack and running a lot of traffic down the Kata-Maumalo edge. Scoring points hasn’t been an issue for the Green Machine so far in 2018 – if they can sort out their defence, they’ll be hard to beat on Saturday.

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Head-to-head: Raiders $1.75, Warriors $2.00 (Line: Raiders -1.5).

The Raiders have covered just 1 of their last 7 as a home favourite of 3.5 or less. The over is 14-6 in Raiders home day games since 2015. The over is 12-4 when Canberra are favoured at home off a loss. The Warriors have won just 2 of their last 18 games in Australia. The over is 11-5 when the Warriors play a day game away from Mt Smart. FULL TAB BETTING PREVIEW

Tips – Warriors Win @ $2.00
Warriors 12 & Under @ $3.20
Half/Full Time Double – Raiders/Warriors @ $8.00
To Score 2 or More Tries – Jordan Rapana @ $4.25 and David Fusitu’a @ $5.00
Over 47.5 Points @ $1.82

LISTEN: TAB NRL PODCAST – THE ADVANTAGE LINE

The Verdict: The Warriors have got off to a very handy head-start, but this road trip is as crucial as their previous two outings with an extremely tough run – Roosters (A), Cowboys (H), Broncos (H), Dragons (H) and Storm (A) – coming up. The two points on offer in Canberra would be extremely valuable. The Raiders will present the Warriors with easily their biggest test to date, but from what we’ve seen so far, and if they can get the balance right between attacking flair and reckless abandon, they’ll create history by remaining undefeated after three rounds. Warriors by 10

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