Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks | Saturday, September 10, 5.35pm (AEDT), GIO Stadium
Can anyone stop Canberra? That’s one of the big questions heading into an intriguing finals series with Ricky Stuart’s side riding a wave of momentum heading into their first September appearance since 2012.
Where Stuart’s 2002 Roosters’ title campaign centred on impenetrable defence, this current lot of Raiders are of the opposite persuasion and present as one of the most ominous attacking forces the code has seen in many years.
Joey Leilua’s instinctive flick pass to set up Jordan Rapana last week a prime example of their prowess with the ball in hand.
Fullback Jack Wighton escaped sanction at the judiciary and will take his place with Junior Paulo replacingPaul Vaughan as a like for like switch up front.
Cronulla’s season has ground to a halt with their comeback win over a Roosters side with nothing to play for the only thing they have to show for their efforts over the past six weeks.
Andrew Fafita’s public statement was a distraction they could have done without as they look to break the code’s longest premiership drought.
These clubs have split their two meetings this year with Canberra breaking the Sharks’ long winning streak back in round 22 although Mick Ennis, who gives Shane Flanagan so much drive and energy around the ruck, was a notable absentee on that occasion.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Raiders handle the pressure of finals against a far more experience team but on form, and in front of a likely sell-out crowd, Canberra look the goods.
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Las time they met: Rd 22 – Cronulla 14-30 Canberra
Tip: Canberra at $1.57
Line tip: Canberra -4.5
Raiders: 1 Jack Wighton 2 Edrick Lee 3 Jarrod Croker (c) 4 Joseph Leilua 5 Jordan Rapana 6 Samuel Williams 7 Aidan Sezer 8 Junior Paulo 9 Josh Hodgson 10 Shannon Boyd 11 Josh Papalii 12 Elliot Whitehead 13 Iosia Soliola. Interchange: 14 Kurt Baptiste 15 Luke Bateman 16 Clay Priest 17 Joseph Tapine 18 Paul Vaughan
Sharks: 1 Ben Barba 2 Sosaia Feki 3 Jack Bird 4 Ricky Leutele 5 Valentine Holmes 6 James Maloney 7 Chad Townsend 8 Andrew Fifita 9 Michael Ennis 10 Matt Prior 11 Luke Lewis 12 Wade Graham 13 Paul Gallen Interchange: 14 Gerard Beale 15 Chris Heighington 16 Jesse Sene-Lefao 17 Jayson Bukuya 18 Kurt Capewell