NYC PREVIEW: Vodafone Junior Warriors v Raiders

Vodafone Junior Warriors captain David Bhana looking to lead his side to the club's first NYC win in Canberra tonight. Photo: Photosport.


Canberra Stadium is famed as one of rugby leagues most challenging venues for visiting teams, a reputation the Vodafone Junior Warriors know all about.


While its true the NYC is in only its sixth season and the Vodafone Junior Warriors have played at Canberra Stadium just three times previously, the fact remains they go into their clash with the young Raiders tonight (5.15pm kick-off local time; 7.15pm NZT) still to win in Australias national capital.


In two previous regular season NYC encounters there, Canberra won 42-28 and 32-28 last year.


In 2009 the Vodafone Junior Warriors try scorers included Shaun Johnson, Kevin Locke and Sebastine Ikahihifo, all on NRL duty with the club tonight. Lockes try still resonates as one of the more remarkable individual efforts seen.


CLICK HERE TO SEE KEVIN LOCKE'S 2009 TRY


Last year the Vodafone Junior Warriors had worked their way into a position where they appeared to be in control only to be undone by a withering Raiders comeback to lose by four points.


More painful was the third meeting between the two sides in the finals last year. Having finished second in the minor premiership, the Vodafone Junior Warriors were unable to benefit from the home advantage theyd

theoretically earned (because the clubs NRL side failed to make the play-offs).


The reward instead was to take on the sixth-ranked Raiders at their place. Having trailed at various stages of the contest 0-14 early on and 16-32 early in the second half they staged one of their stunning recovery jobs to lead 38-32 heading into the final few minutes. They couldnt finish it off, though, the home side taking advantage of their heavily fatigued opponents to snatch a 39-38 success.


Now the two sides square off again, the Vodafone Junior Warriors on the back of three straight wins after a hesitant start to the season. Their last two successes against North Queensland and South Sydney have marked a return to their best form.


The Raiders have been travelling well, too, with four wins and a loss to sit in fourth spot. With Brisbane and the Roosters winning last night, the Vodafone Junior Warriors have been nudged down to seventh place but a win tonight has the potential to push them into the top four.


They certainly have the ability to succeed this time judging by their recent efforts, an upward curve in overall improvement and settled combinations.


Quite apart from outscoring the Rabbitohs eight tries to three, they monstered their opponents in all stats last Sunday, even winning the penalty count by a decisive 6-2, an unusual occurrence. Their completion rate was an impressive 31 from 38 (82 per cent) compared to the Rabbitohs 20 from 29 (69 per cent); they made 1837 metres (Souths only 1124), were 11-4 ahead in line breaks, missed only 19 tackles and finished 18-5 ahead in offloads.


There were so many top individual performers with fullback Ngataua Hukatai making 231 metres, David Fusitua 155, debutant Solomone Kata 154, Viliami Kaveinga 151, Viliami Lolohea 133, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 130, Sam Lisone 129, James Taylor 124 and Albert Vete 112.


But tonight theyre in Canberras cauldron, an uncomfortable environment for so many visiting sides. Theyll need to maintain their recent form to be in the hunt.


VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS v CANBERRA RAIDERS


Canberra Stadium, Canberra

5.15pm, Saturday, April 13

Referee: Phil Henderson


VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS


1NGATAUA HUKATAI

2VILIAMI KAVEINGA

3SOLOMONE KATA

4DAVID FUSITUA

5VILIAMI LOLOHEA

6TUIMOALA LOLOHEA

7MASON LINO (c)

8ALBERT VETE

9MICHAEL SIO

10SAM LISONE

11RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER

12ADAM TUIMAVAVE-GERRARD

13DAVID BHANA (c)

Interchange:

14TRENT BISHOP

15JAMES TAYLOR

16STEDMAN LEFAU

17 ERIC NEWBIGGING

18LAFU FEAGAIGA

20KEN MAUMALO

21ESERA ESERA


HEAD COACH: JOHN ACKLAND