NRL FINALS - Raiders v Sharks
Sunday 9 September 2012 10:19 AM
Canberra’s late-season charge has been exceptional but the Raiders face the sternest examination from combative Cronulla in today’s last week one NRL finals clash at Canberra Stadium (6.00pm kick-off NZ time).
Since a miserable 6-36 home defeat by Newcastle in late July, the Raiders have surged into the finals beating Brisbane 28-12, Penrith 20-10, the Sydney Roosters 24-20, Canterbury-Bankstown 34-6 and the Vodafone Warriors 44-22.
And they also pulled off a couple of telling results before the Newcastle loss, an astonishing 40-12 win over the Storm in Melbourne and, perhaps tellingly, a 36-4 away victory over today’s rivals at Toyota Stadium.
Since being thumped by the Raiders, the Sharks have been hot and cold. They were pipped 21-20 by Penrith, thrashed the Vodafone Warriors 45-4, lost to Newcastle 4-26, beat South Sydney 20-7, lost to Melbourne 18-20 and lost to North Queensland 22-36.
They haven’t quite limped into the finals but they haven’t made a statement either, finishing the regular season in seventh spot on 29 points.
Even though they’ve suffered without Terry Campese’s guiding influence and experience, the Raiders have still been one of the competition’s most dangerous attacking outfits.
They’re set to have Josh Dugan back at fullback today and also have threats in Jarrod Croker, Blake Ferguson and Reece Robinson as well as talent in the halves in Sam Williams and Josh McCrone. Up front they have size, power and industry from David Shillington, Glen Buttriss, Dane Tilse, Josh Papalii, Joel Thompson and and Shaun Fensom with wonderful experience and finals know-how from former Vodafone Warrior Shaun Berrigan on the bench.
And Cronulla? Well any side with the inspiration Paul Gallen and Jeremy Smith bring has a huge start not forgetting Todd Carney’s obvious if sometimes fragile brilliance. Around him, though, are tough and seasoned battlers.
The Raiders in Canberra might appeal as the most likely result, especially given their run of form but the Sharks could easily upset logic here.
The teams for today’s match are:
RAIDERS: Josh Dugan, Sandor Earl, Jarrod Croker, Blake Ferguson, Reece Robinson, Josh McCrone, Sam Williams, David Shillington, Glen Buttriss, Dane Tilse, Josh Papalii, Joel Thompson, Shaun Fensom. Interchange (from): Shaun Berrigan, Joe Picker, Mark Nicholls, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Jarrad Kennedy, Travis Waddell, Dimitri Pelo
SHARKS: Matthew Wright, John Williams, Ricky Leutele, Colin Best, Nathan Stapleton, Todd Carney, Jeff Robson, Bryce Gibbs, Isaac De Gois, Ben Ross, Jeremy Smith, Anthony Tupou, Paul Gallen. Interchange (from): Andrew Fifita, Mark Taufua, John Morris, Jayson Bukuya, Tyson Frizell, Sam Tagataese, Wade Graham
Referees: Tony Archer and Chris James