Vodafone Warriors v Canberra Raiders
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Saturday, August 13, 4.00pm
Top eight hopes are on the line for the Canberra Raiders while the Vodafone Warriors are desperate to end a five-week nightmare without a win when they meet this Sunday in Auckland.
The New Zealand outfit crashed to a new low last week with a limp effort in a 10-26 loss to the Newcastle Knights, their 13th defeat of the season.
The Raiders on the other hand claimed the scalp of defending premiers the Cronulla Sharks, downing them 30-12 in convincing fashion to keep themselves within four points of a finals berth.
Vodafone Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has moved veteran hooker Issac Luke back to the bench in favour of Nathaniel Roache while Ryan Hoffman is back in the second row. Jazz Tevaga is in the reserves after starting at loose forward against Newcastle.
Canberra has maintained the same 17 as it looks to make it three wins on the trot with Ricky Stuart shifting Elliot Whitehead to loose forward.
Why the Vodafone Warriors can win: They haven't shown it for quite some time but there's still enough quality in this team to compete. Last week in the loss to Newcastle the Vodafone Warriors still managed to complete at 81 per cent and make five line breaks. Veteran forwards Jacob Lillyman, Ben Matulino and Simon Mannering are still recording big numbers in yardage while at the back captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is capable of sparking the attack. If they can plug some gaps in defence this team has the talent to cause an upset.
Why the Raiders can win: The Raiders' revival is being driven by consistent defence. Across their last four matches they have kept opposing teams to under 20 points on each occasion, averaging just 16 points leaked in their last month of football. Fresh off a showing against the Sharks where they gave up only two tries, the Raiders' ability to suffocate the struggling home side's attack will be key.
The History: Played 37; Vodafone Warriors 17; Raiders 20. The Raiders have enjoyed plenty of success over the last two seasons against the Vodafone Warriors, with three wins on the trot including a 20-8 win back in April this year. However, at Mount Smart Stadium the Vodafone Warriors have won 11 of 17 against Canberra, having lost to it just twice in Auckland since 2002.
What are the odds: The Vodafone Warriors are pronounced underdogs for this one, paying $2.90 in the head-to-head betting on the New Zealand TAB while Canberra is at $1.37. See all the odds on www.tab.co.nz
Vodafone Warriors | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c); David Fusitu’a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo; Kieran Foran, Mason Lino; Jacob Lillyman, Nathaniel Roache, Ben Matulino; Bunty Afoa, Ryan Hoffman; Simon Mannering. Interchange: Issac Luke, Sam Lisone, Isaiah Papali’I, James Bell, Jazz Tevaga, Chris Satae, Mafoa’aeata Hingano, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
Canberra Raiders | Jack Wighton; Nick Cotric, Jarrod Croker (c), Joseph Leilua, Jordan Rapana; Blake Austin, Aidan Sezer; Junior Paulo, Josh Hodgson, Shannon Boyd; Josh Papalii, Joseph Tapine; Elliot Whitehead. Interchange: Kurt Baptiste, Clay Priest, Dave Taylor, Luke Bateman, Michael Oldfield, Jeff Lima, Royce Hunt, Erin Clark.
Match officials: Referee: Adam Gee. Assistant referee: Gavin Reynolds. Sideline officials: Russell Turner and Chris McMillan. Review official: Luke Patten. Senior review official: Ashley Klein.
Televised: SKY Sport 2 - Coverage starts from 3.30pm. Fox Sports – Live coverage from 2.00pm.
NRL.com predicts: Canberra seems to be growing in confidence with every play the ball right now, while the Vodafone Warriors look like they've forgotten what it is all together. The Raiders have it all to play for and will come to Auckland and get the job done. Canberra by 14.