The Raiders season plagued by inconsistency and bereft of a single 80-minute performance and an inability to finish close encounters is all but over. Their season was hanging on the line a month ago and since then they have lost all four of their matches in a row after some excitement and potential finals talk upon the return of Josh Hodgson. The Raiders are one of the, if not the best-attacking side in the competition, however, their defence has continually been put to question, and it has ended their season prematurely once more.
Their biggest fallback seems to be a lack of playing to their gameplan, whilst the Raiders enjoy ad-lib football as does every neutral fan continuously relying on strengths without paying enough attention to weaknesses has come back to bite the Raiders. A lack of a more than one natural kicker for the majority of the season has not ailed their cause and with Hodgson they look a reformed team that is improving, albeit too little, too late.
The Sydney Roosters began the 2018 season slowly with four wins and four losses and no real signs of a side with, out-and-out premiership quality. However, under the tutelage of Trent Robinson, they remain the best defensive side within the competition a title they have either held or been in the top three sides for most Robinson's tenure. Add to the fact that the Roosters often score more than they concede and their fortunes have well and truly turned around this season.
The Roosters rise to competition ladder leaders and the opportunity to stay there has seen them peak at possibly the perfect time of the season. Whilst some may argue they need a loss it is hugely beneficial to put in these sort of performances right now and to have the entire team realise the potential they can play to.
2017 - Round 12 - Canberra Raiders 24 def. Sydney Roosters 16 at GIO Stadium
2016 - Round 2 - Canberra Raiders 21 def. Sydney Roosters 20 at GIO Stadium
2015 - Round 4 - Sydney Roosters 34 def. Canberra Raiders at Allianz Stadium
2014 - Round 12 - Sydney Roosters 26 def. Canberra Raiders 12 at Allianz Stadium
2013 - Round 22 - Sydney Roosters 28 def. Canberra Raiders 22 at Allianz Stadium
The Raiders have the recent form between the sides that usually face off once a year throughout the season, with two wins in a row. However, the Roosters won the previous three before that and won two of those convincingly.
The home side has won this clash the last five times they have faced off. Whitehead came out during the week stating the Raiders fire burns as bright as ever and they will look to knock the Roosters off their perch as ladder leaders.
The facts that matter
The Raiders face a difficult end to the season starting with the Roosters this weekend and will need to win at least one of these matches to ensure they avoid the wooden spoon. Add together the fact they have not won a game since the 14th of July and some losing habits may have crept in that are challenging to overcome for a side that has not won over two games in a row all season.
In the past four weeks, the Raiders have conceded a combined 132 points at an average of 33 points per game. This has banished any hopes of purely out-gunning their opponents on the path to victory. There are only three sides worse than the Raiders defensively despite sitting in 10th position on the ladder an issue that must be fixed to have any chance against the Roosters attack, especially with the attack of Latrell Mitchell. The left center will come up against one of the more renowned poor defensive players in the competition in Joey Leilua who will have his work cut out for him against the form center in the competition.
If the Raiders can run the Roosters ragged early and score some crucial early points and then hold out with some stoic defence that has been missing all season they are a chance. They rank in the top three in the competition for line breaks, points scored, tries scored and tackle breaks. For them to win this game they need the direction Hodgson offers out of dummy half and control of the ruck to dictate the pace to suit them and give their forwards a rest for defensive sets.
The Sydney Roosters sit on 32 competition points and a win this weekend will ensure they stay in first place, after a succession of five wins in a row since Origin concluded the Bondi side are coming off their most impressive scalp of the season in the Rabbitohs. Should they keep winning they will secure a home final and that crucial double chance in September it all starts this weekend against the Raiders.
Their star signings are crowing just at the right time of the season and the form they are in can obliterate the Raiders if they play to their potential. The suggestion that the Roosters must lose somewhere in order to win the Grand Final is debunked by the Melbourne Storm of 2017. Melbourne went on a ten game winning streak that concluded with the Grand Final last season to end up with the major premiership and the Roosters may have to do that with a relatively easy run into the finals.
The Roosters have the fifth-best attack in the competition scoring an average of 22.7 points per game and by far and large the best defence. However, they come up against the third best attack in the competition it will be a huge test of their premiership credentials to keep Canberra to a low score. They currently concede an average of just 15 points a game and will want to do the same against the Raiders who with momentum can throw the ball around and run rings around any opposition with their creative outside backs.
A mouthwatering match up with two of the more attack-minded teams within the competition. However, the Roosters steely defensive resolve will provide a stern test for the free-flowing attack of the Canberra Raiders.
Canberra despite a succession of losses have displayed the enterprising play that saw them charge for the preliminary finals in 2016 and with Josh Hodgson back on board. However, the Roosters have the momentum with a five-game winning streak since State of Origin concluded and coming up against the Raiders who have little else but pride to play for, expect the Roosters to win and convincingly.
Will the Raiders cause a headache for the table-topping Roosters or could the Chooks notch a big win over Ricky Stuart's men? Let us know in the comments below.
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