The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs are back at their spiritual home of Belmore Sports Ground this Saturday Night as they host the Canberra Raiders in Round 17. Dean Pay’s men are surely in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon for 2018 and are adjusting to life without mid-season departures Aaron Woods and Moses Mbye.
The Bulldogs delivered some rare joy to their fans last weekend, with an impressive 36-16 win over the Knights in Newcastle. They will be hoping for another committed team effort on Saturday Night and a big improvement on their previous outing at Belmore, in which they were thrashed 32-10 by the Gold Coast Titans.
Meanwhile, the Raiders are reeling from giving up yet another big lead. They looked every bit a team capable of making a run for the finals when they led the Brisbane Broncos 16-0 at halftime at Suncorp Stadium. However, once again the Green Machine crumbled under pressure as a confident Broncos came back to win 26-22. It’s a must-win game at Belmore with the Raiders now 6 points behind the 8th placed Broncos.
2018 Raiders def Bulldogs 26-10 at Canberra Stadium
2017 Bulldogs def Raiders 16-10 at ANZ Stadium
2016 Raiders def Bulldogs 32-20 at Canberra Stadium
2016 Raiders def Bulldogs 22-8 at Belmore Sports Ground
2015 Bulldogs def Raiders 41-34 at Canberra Stadium
The Bulldogs historically hold the edge against the Raiders, winning 37 matches to Canberra’s 29, although the men in green have won 3 of the last 4 contests.
The Raiders earned their first win of the season when they defeated the Bulldogs 26-10 back in Round 5, a win which helped to spark a mini-revival for the Raiders after they lost their opening 4 games. They will be hoping for a similar boost on Saturday Night.
Interestingly the highest profile meeting ever between these two clubs, the 1994 Grand Final, saw Canberra thrash Canterbury 36-12, with Ricky Stuart playing halfback for the Raiders and Dean Pay in the second row for the Bulldogs.
Jarrod Croker [C]
Josh Jackson [C]
NSW State of Origin David Klemmer is in camp and unavailable for the Bulldogs on Saturday Night. Danny Fualalo will start in his place at prop.
Former Canberra Raiders star Clay Priest will take on his old club from the bench.
The form of Blake Austin has again come under the microscope following the Raiders capitulation last week and coach Ricky Stuart has dropped him to the bench. Sam Williams has been called up to start at five-eighth.
Siliva Havili will start at lock with Josh Papalii lining up for the Maroons in Origin 3.
The facts that matter
The Bulldogs might like to deny it but they are in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon, with their current record of 4 wins and 11 losses.
While the Bulldogs poor season has been rightly criticised, they have been actually more competitive than many people realise with 7 of their 11 defeats coming by margins of 10 points or less. The Bulldogs also have an average completion rate of 79% this year, which is the equal 2nd best in the NRL. The inability of their halves to create opportunities and a shortage of strike power in the backline has hurt them in close games.
The Bulldogs will miss origin prop David Klemmer against the big and powerful Canberra Raiders pack. Klemmer has made 1006 post contact metres in the NRL this season, 2nd only to Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo.
Ricky Stuart must wonder what his Canberra Raiders have to do to close out a game as their bad habit of giving up match winning leads continues. Remarkably, the Green Machine have lost 4 games already this season in which they have led by 10 points or more. They have also lost 5 games by 4 points or less. If they were able to close out just 3 of those games they’d been in the top 8, instead of a worrying 6 points outside of it.
Canberra look good in a number of statistical areas this season, having scored 58 tries with only South Sydney having scored more. Jarrod Croker has scored 132 points, behind only Gareth Widdop who has scored 155. The superbly talented winger Nick Cotric tops the NRL line-breaks list this season with 14. These statistics mean little however when you cannot win close games and are in 9th position.
A big positive for the Raiders is the fine form of their English hooker Josh Hodgson since he has returned from injury. Hodgson’s absence hasn’t helped the Raiders plight in 2018 but with him back in the team, he is providing more organisation for the Raiders in attack and defence and is a threat running from dummy half and also with his clever kicking game. The Raiders need a more composed display from their halves to complement the brilliance of Hodgson.
Both the Bulldogs and the Raiders should be determined to play well and pick up the 2 points on Saturday Night. The Bulldogs were embarrassed in their last outing at Belmore against the Titans with a terrible defensive effort which saw them 22-0 down at halftime. They also want to build on last week’s good win against Newcastle and steer clear of wooden spoon territory. While the Raiders simply have to win this game if they are to entertain any thoughts of making the top 8. The Green Machine on paper have the more powerful pack and greater class and natural ability in the backs. The Raiders should have too many points in them for a rather inexperienced looking Bulldogs side but they can’t afford to show any complacency, especially if they get out to a good lead like last week.
Canberra by 10 points
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