Tigers v Raiders preview
NRL.com Wed, Mar 23, 2011 - 3:00 PM
Wests Tigers v Canberra Raiders
Campbelltown Sports Ground
It wasn’t long ago when these two sides met in sudden-death finals football and produced a cracking match.
History shows the Wests Tigers defied the odds and beat the Raiders in Canberra before falling just short against the Dragons – a result that still burns the Green Machine.
As far as the start to this year goes, one team comes in off a loss, the other off a win – but both teams feel they have plenty to prove this Saturday night at Campbelltown.
The Wests Tigers did enough to get a result last weekend against the Warriors, prevailing 20-12 for their first win of the year, but they were far from impressive.
The Raiders backed up a great Round 1 victory over the Sharks with a dismal 20-4 loss to the Broncos, giving them plenty of motivation to prove they really are the competition dark horses many have predicted.
It all adds up to two teams determined to get their seasons well and truly on track – making it an intriguing match worthy of your patronage.
The home-side Tigers make their first trip to Campbelltown this year sitting just outside the top eight by percentages in ninth spot. They have retained the same 17 players who disposed of the Warriors at Leichhardt Oval but Todd Payten will start in the second row for his 250th first grade match, sending Alan Schirnack back to the bench.
As for the Raiders, who sit in fifth place on the ladder at this early stage of the year, they to have retained last week’s squad.
But Brett White, James Stuart and Reece Robinson have been named as extra reserves at this stage, with White a huge chance of playing.
Centre Jarrod Croker is in some doubt with a corked leg.
Once again there are whispers fullback Josh Dugan could return for the Green Machine, although they have proven false in the opening two rounds.
Watch Out Wests Tigers: The Raiders’ video review has spotted a small chink in the Wests Tigers armour to exploit. Young prop Andrew Fifita is still having a few minor problems adjusting to defence in the big time and the Canberra boys are sure to test him out.
So far this season Fifita has been ineffective in defence just over 20 per cent of the time, despite having missed just five tackles. It is his nine ineffective tackles, where he has come in late or offered no value, where the Raiders see an edge.
Often in these situations the player has to get away and back in the defensive line as the two marker positions will be assumed by effective defenders. The Raiders will look to catch Fifita offside and draw penalties their way.
Danger Sign: If you notice Fifita making two or three tackles in a row you can be sure the sting is on.
Watch Out Raiders: The Wests Tigers have once again come out as a second-phase football team prepared to let a little razzle dazzle infiltrate their style. Already they have 35 offloads for the year, the most by any team, as they buck the trend of trying to play ‘boring’, methodical football and instead back their skills. Back-rower Chris Heighington leads the way with seven offloads, while halves Robert Lui and Benji Marshall have four each, as does centre Blake Ayshford. Danger Sign: If the Wests Tigers players start getting their arms free in contact, it won’t be long before an offload creates a break and potentially a try. With 70 support runs notched up in two games it is only a matter of time before one of those players pushing up is rewarded.
Plays To Watch: Raiders cross-field bombs to Utai, Benji stepping back in against the grain, Payten standing in tackles looking to offload and the Schirnack brothers producing something from backyard footy!
Where It Will Be Won: The early grind. Both of these teams love to attack – and there is no doubt they will entertain us with plenty of it – but the platform set in the early stages will be the key here.
The sides need to get in to the groove of the game, get some field position and then unleash the goods. This means a good kicking game is essential and while the Raiders kicked well in Round 1, they were pretty terrible in Round 2. So far only 16.7 per cent of their long kicks have found space – they are kicking directly to their opponents who are on the front foot for the start of almost every set of six. Conversely, the Wests Tigers have found space 66.7 per cent of the time – a significant difference – allowing their kick-chase to get downfield and dominate the first two tackles of the set, and keeping them away from defending their line too often.
The responsibility falls on the likes of Matt Orford and Benji Marshall to compose their teams early, and the team who does it effectively will probably go on to score multiple tries.
The History: Played 21; Wests Tigers 12, Raiders 9. The Wests Tigers have now notched five straight wins over the Raiders, including three victories last year – the last of which was in the finals. As far as match-ups at Campbelltown Sports Ground go, the home side has an 80 per cent success rate against Canberra, having won four of five matches.
Conclusion: They have yet to play to their potential but the Wests Tigers get the lean here, thanks to home-field advantage and the recent history between the clubs. But if Dugan comes in late the Raiders will look much tougher. Expect a fair few tries but also a few errors as both teams still work off some pre-season rust.
Match Officials: Referees – Jason Robinson & Chris James; Sideline Officials – Gavin West & Daniel Eastwood; Video Ref – Steve Clark.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7.30pm
- Statistics: NRL Stats.
Agree with the importance of a good kicking game, field position and the need to maintain a good possession percentage. I am looking forward to going to this game but feel I will spend the match on the edge of my seat as was the case in the semi last year. Starve the Raiders of as much possession as possible, make them defend more than WTs and run their big forwards around. In attack unleash the expansive attack and mix with short side quick offloads which WTs can do so well.
WTs will need to be on their toes for the full 80 minutes as raiders won’t lay down and we saw how they played even after losing Campese in the semi last year. Hope Benji’s goal kicks are good and perhaps a field goal could be called for.
Sport Preview: Tigers v Raiders
VENUE & TIME: Campbelltown Stadium – Saturday, March 26, 7.30pm (AEST), 9.30pm (NZT)
COVERAGE: Fox Sports/Sky Sport
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 21 - Tigers 12, Raiders 9.
LAST TIME: Finals week two, 2010 – Tigers 26-24.
WALKING WOUNDED: The Raiders left Josh Dugan out of the line-up when they submitted their 17-man squad on Tuesday. But it would be no surprise if the flying No 1 makes a return from a calf injury. The Tigers are certainly expecting him to play. Centre Jarrod Croker (corked calf) is in doubt. Gareth Ellis (ankle) and Bryce Gibbs (knee) have been left off the team list, although they still hold out hope of playing a part.
FORM: The Tigers took a small step in the right direction with a tense win over the Warriors. It wasn’t comprehensive and there was some good fortune involved, but at least that first win is on the board. Canberra were expected to see off Brisbane at home but never really got going. Disappointing doesn’t begin to describe it. The Tigers have won the last five straight against Canberra and have a four from five record against them at Campbelltown.
WHO’S HOT: Five-year deals in the NRL are harder to find than a mute ref so you know Chris Lawrence must be something special to be offered such a deal. The 21-year-old centre, who debuted out of school, has already notched up 92 NRL matches. His strike rate is better than a try a game and very few centres get the better of him in defence. He has already played for his country and NSW coach Ricky Stuart is a big fan. Origin selection is a distinct possibility this year. Veteran prop Todd Payten deserves to take a bow as he heads into game No.250 in the toughest position of them all.
WE THINK: The hour before kick-off will be interesting as we see just who will line-up for both sides. If Ellis and/or Gibbs make it back for the Tigers then they will be very warm favourites. Should Dugan return, the Raiders will feel a lot better about their chances. But given Wests’ record over Canberra at Campbelltown, you can’t go past the home side. Tigers by 8
Wests Tigers v Canberra Raiders
March 24, 2011 - 7:09PM
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday 7.30pm (AEDT)
Last meeting: Tigers 26-24 at Canberra Stadium (rd 28, 2010)
Referees: Jason Robinson, Chris James
TV: Live, FoxSports 2
TAB Sportsbet: Tigers $1.53, Raiders $2.50
FootyTab: Raiders +5.5
Greg Prichard writes: Intriguing match-up between two teams that should both make the finals and are capable of making real runs at the title. It’s been an up-and-down start to the season for both, with the Tigers losing first-up to the Bulldogs and then improving - but still not producing their best - to beat the Warriors, and the Raiders flying out of the boxes to smash the Sharks but then failing to back it up against the Broncos and losing. It’s bound to be a tremendous contest as both teams try to avoid finishing the first three rounds in the negative on the win-loss ratio.
The Tigers are depending heavily on Benji Marshall to get them out of trouble at the moment, and other key players need to step up and do more to support him in the playmaking department. It’s when Marshall isn’t the only focus in attack that the Tigers are at their best. The Raiders have a huge forward pack and some flying outside backs, and halfback Matt Orford should be much better off for having had his first game with the team last week. The Tigers will be hard to beat, but the Raiders should make a real game of it.
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TIGERS: Wade McKinnon, Lote Tuqiri, Blake Ayshford, Chris Lawrence, Matt Utai, Benji Marshall, Robert Lui, Andrew Fifita, Robbie Farah (capt), Keith Galloway, Simon Dwyer, Todd Payten, Chris Heighington. Interchange: Tim Moltzen, Aaron Woods, Jason Schirnack, Alan Schirnack.
RAIDERS: David Milne, Blake Ferguson, Jarrod Croker, Joel Thompson, Daniel Vidot, Josh McCrone, Matt Orford, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Glen Buttriss, David Shillington (capt), Joe Picker, Bronson Harrison (capt), Shaun Fensom. Interchange: Travis Waddell, Trevor Thurling, Dane Tilse, Brett White, Josh Miller, James Stuart, Reece Robinson (three to be omitted).
I hope our forwards aren’t intimidated by their pigs and are willing to run straight at the line, Woodsy should be good to draw a few defenders and get a few balls clear into waiting hands (hopefully ours!)
A small piece on channel 10 sport showed the Tigers at training and it was suggested the Raiders pack will look to steamroll the Tigers up the middle, which Farah scoffed at. The Tigers starting pack is pretty much the same size as the Raiders and Galloway and Fifita will certainly be up for the challenge early on IMO.