Round 22: Raiders v Wests Tigers preview
Canberra last week again had victory in their hands when they opened up a 14 point lead over the Penrith Panthers in surprising circumstances. The Raiders were strong in the opening half at Penrith when they raced out to a 26-12 halftime lead before being outscored 28-5 in the second half to fall to a 40-31 defeat.
Last weekend, the Raiders completed at an impressive 81% for the game and they were matching statistics with the Panthers last week including making 12 more tackle breaks as well as a better tackling efficiency.
The Raiders in 2018 come into the game sitting in 10th position with 8 wins from their 20 matches so far this season. Canberra are the only side outside of the top six that has a positive for and against with a points differential of +15.
The Green Machine in 2018 have scored 489 so far this season which is compared to their 2017 season when they had scored just 418 points at the same point last season. The Raiders defence in 2018 has been leakier than what it was in 2017 conceding 474 points this season which is compared with 383 points in 2017.
The Wests Tigers kept their remote finals chances alive following a nerve-wracking 25-16 victory over the Newcastle Knights last Friday up at McDonald Jones Stadium. They opened up an early 22-6 lead through the opening 50 minutes and were looking comfortable before the Knights begun a late comeback. Despite things getting nervous for the Tigers, Luke Brooks showed enough poise to slot a field goal which pushed their lead out to 7 and then a late penalty goal sealed their 9 point victory.
The Tigers were very sound defensively last weekend and with the ball they completed at a good 80% making just 7 errors for the game. In 2018, they've made the fourth most handling errors in the season so far with 84 handling errors.
2018 has been a much-improved season for the Tigers sitting in 9th spot on the NRL ladder with 10 wins this season compared to just five wins after 21 rounds in 2017. Despite having a better season than 2017, they've surprisingly scored just four more points this season than they had done at the same point in 2017 however they have been so much better defensively this season conceding just 349 points compared to 457 points last year.
Last meeting: Round 15 2018 - Wests Tigers 12 Raiders 48
The two sides have been evenly matched in their 35 contests with the Tigers with winning 18, Raiders 16 and one draw between the two sides. Although the head to head is even, Canberra have won six of the past seven games between the two sides.
Who to watch: Blake Austin - Since moving back into the centres, Austin has been dangerous and created plenty of issues for the Panthers last weekend. Blake Austin possess the footwork that can and will cause danger for the big Tigers defenders if they don't stay awake and the experience of playing in the halves creates more attacking potency with the option of a third different half for the Raiders.
Robbie Farah - The return of Robbie has been successful for the Tigers, with Farah fitting back into the Tigers squad with ease. The service and experience Farah brings at dummy half is important to the Tigers given the smooth ball skills Farah possess. The other key aspect of Robbie Farah's impact to the Tigers is that since his return he has averaged 46 tackles per match.
My tip: The Tigers are good value to win this game, although their form has been up and down over recent weeks but they will want to show they are a united team. The Raiders were impressive against the Panthers in their defeat but the story could've been very different if the 50/50 calls fell the opposite way. Canberra will be in the game but desperation from the Tigers will be key and I think they will scrape to victory. Wests Tigers by 2.