The Roosters have not let in a single line break in two matches, and no points to boot. They are on fire on the line and had a break out record attacking performance against the Eels, winning 50-0.
Meanwhile the Raiders are down two “bad boys” — if you classify “bad boys” as two boys covered in tough stickers drinking shit drinks on a hot tin roof — and have already been beaten this year three times including a round one 32-10 loss to a Panthers team that let all of its stars go so they could sign Sika Manu for this season and Brent Kite for the next two.
The Raiders have not made the playoffs for two consecutive years dating back to the old Green Machine days. They made it last year, and look like they are going to continue that weird in-and-out streak this year with the Roosters to take their spot in the top eight.
Should be a close game. Seriously. Why are you laughing?
Team for Round Five
Reece Robinson, Sandor Earl, Jarrod Croker, Jack Wighton, Edrick Lee, Josh McCrone (C), Sam Williams, David Shillington (C), Glen Buttriss, Brett White, Josh Papalii, Joel Thompson, Shaun Fensom. Interchange: (From) Matt McIlwrick, Dane Tilse, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Joel Edwards, Anthony Milford.
Blake Ferguson is out of this one with a fractured cheekbone. He was easily the most dangerous player for the Raiders in their third loss of the season against the Knights, running for 161 metres with six tackle busts.
The good news for Raiders fans is that its almost impossible to drink pre-mixed alcopops with a busted cheek so unless he goes on a rant against a troll on Twitter, the longest he’ll be out is the time it takes his cheekbone to heal: roughly 4-6 weeks.
However, his replacement is no slouch in Jack Wighton, and might be a little better defensively — although he struggled with a right arm injury throughout the same match while playing on the wing.
Former test utility Shaun Berrigan also failed to make the squad, having suffered for a semblance of form through the first month of action, while bump-off and hole-running specialist Joel Thompson replaces former Knight Joel Edwards.
The team is pretty solid on paper except for the halves, who have more ups and downs than a rolled up five dollar note at Lindsay Lohan’s mansion. Josh McCrone is capable of big games and Sam Williams is steady with a solid kicking game, but they are no match for their opposite numbers in attacking prowess.
This is a club that lost their biggest name after just one game in Josh Dugan. But “biggest name” doesn’t always mean “best player”. His replacement, Reece Robinson, is a steadier hand with great turn of pace who doesn’t get injured at nearly the same rate as Dugan does, nor does he carry any baggage. He is a different player, sure, and Dugan could create space pretty easily with a tough fend and superior upper body strength compared to most fullbacks. But Robinson is certainly no slouch, is dangerous in his own way and needs to be watched closely.
Their forwards, while hard workers and capable of good go-forward, don’t have the same skill set that many other forward packs in the top tier possess — and certainly nowhere near as much as the Roosters.
Edrick Lee moves into the squad on the wing and while he is fast and bloody tall, he’s not terribly skilled and could be found wanting in defence. Josh Papalii has been a beats for these guys and will be dangerous to stop near the line. He’s the most likely of all the forwards to create something out of nothing, but the addition of Joel Thompson to the squad means they are desperate to score points — even if it sacrifices a bit of defence in the process.
How they’ll play
Thompson and Papalii are their biggest weapons, but most effective near the line. Expect some bash-and-barge up the middle from the Radiers’ huge front row rotation which includes Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Dane Tilse, Dave Shillington and Brett White. Williams and McCrone share the kicking duties almost equally and will pepper the line looking for repeat sets and repeat chances to throw Thompson and Papalii at Jake Friend, Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney.
In attacking plays in their own half, look for Robinson to try to bamboozle Shaun Kenny-Dowall with his in-and-away move and searing speed in open space. But make no mistake: they’ll miss Blake Ferguson, who if you take out the whole “drinking lolly drinks on a rooftop” thing has been pretty dangerous with the ball in hand on the right edge. Otherwise, I have no effing idea how they’ll play. It’s a crapshoot when David Furner is coaching.
Team for Round Five
Anthony Minichiello (C) ,Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Mitchell Aubusson, Sonny Bill Williams, Boyd Cordner. Interchange: (From) Daniel Mortimer, Martin Kennedy, Isaac Liu, Aidan Guerra, Luke O’Donnell.
Frank-Paul Nu’uasala is out with a medial ligament injury. Boyd Cordner steps into the number 13 jersey with Mitch Aubusson coming off the bench to start alongside SBW.
Meanwhile, Luke O’Donnell has been named 18th man following his night out, sleep in and week off, with Aidan Guerra also returning to the top grade after scoring two tries for the Newtown Jets over the weekend following two weeks out with a knee infection.
Isaac Liu might get another chance this weekend after a very impressive debut against the Eels on Monday, being named on the bench in the number 16 jersey, but given Kane Evans and Guerra were both named last week but didn’t play there’s no guarantee that Liu, Guerra or even Luke O’Donnell will make the squad.
It seems unlikely they’ll not play Luke O’Donnell given his two performances so far this season have been more than solid, and with Aubusson starting they need to fill that linebreaking role off the bench — which Guerra fits to a tee. So more than likely Liu will drop off but nothing is certain these days.
How they’ll play
The Canberra forwards are pretty big and SBW won’t have his way with them the way he did with the Eels. Given his form he will still be the most dangerous forward on the park, but if David Furner knows how to coach he’ll rush the No. 12 before he gets a chance to wind up.
Although it may be for naught if its true that SBW now has the freedom to roam and choose his spots — very likely given his game on Monday — and it’s very hard to hit a moving target.
The Chooks should find space down Edrick Lee’s wing: the lanky winger is a little too inexperienced and hasn’t had the chance to develop any consistency being in and out of first grade, and his combination with Wighton is non-existent.
Strangely enough, they defend on the side SBW prefers to attack.
But the game will be won up the middle, with the Roosters’ in form forward pack laying the ground work and Mitchell Pearce’s huge boot making the metres.
There will be opportunities for the BBQ and MP7 to run at a lazy, tiring forward pack — especially at players such as Tilse and Papalii. In the red zone they’ll run it on the third and fourth tackles before utilising SBW out wide with the aim of sending SKD or RTS over.
This is a tough game to read because the Raiders should really be better than they are. They played well against the Dragons and weren’t horrendous last week against the Knights, and they are a reigning playoff team with one of the better forward packs on paper.
It’s a danger game too after such a rout for the Roosters, and it won’t be as easy as the positions on the table suggest.
The Raiders are tough at home and Reece Robinson scares the living shit out of me.
But the Roosters defence in the past two weeks has simply been too strong. I have no idea where the Raiders will score points, and the Roosters will be (hopefully) switched on in an attempt to make it three ducks in a row. Amazingly they haven’t allowed a single line break in two matches, and only Robinson from deep and Papalli and Thompson near the line pose any real threat.
A 13+ scoreline is on the cards here if the Roosters hold the ball the way they did against the Eels.
Mitchell Pearce has been building up to a Man of the Match performance for a month and this is the game it will happen, as he takes on lazy defence in the red zone and drives the Raiders back with that huge boot.