By Guest Writer Stephen Gallagher
MATCH OF THE ROUND: ROUND 25 – Canberra Raiders V Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs – Friday, Canberra Stadium. 19.40 local time, 21.40 NZ time.
LAST WEEK: Canberra made it tough work, but pulled out with a 24-20 home victory over the Sydney Roosters.
It took 89 minutes and the boot of Krisnan Inu for the Canterbury side to win 19-18 and roll their 12th straight victory.
THIS WEEK: Sitting on the edge of the top eight – this is do or die for the Raiders. Two games left, and two good wins needed for them to possibly clinch a finals spot. All hands on deck will be needed by the green machine. A Friday night home game is as rare as it comes for them so they need to make the most of it. No ifs or buts. This is their season at stake.
Bulldogs can wrap up the NRL Minor Premiership and bring home the J. J. Giltinan shield back to Bankstown. Easier said than done of course. Their opposition this week will do their best to end the Bulldogs winning streak but they aren’t sitting top of the pops for nothing. This team has strengths all over the field which intertwine to be a raging juggernaut which seemingly can’t be stopped.
WHAT TO EXPECT: The good Canberra to come out and play. An extremely bi-polar team – they need their best of the best performance to even have a chance of winning this one. The youth in this Canberra side has been exploited at times with their lack of knowledge, but when they’re hot they are most definitely hot. Exuberance is only going to get you so far – a valiant team effort and a wall of defence if their best friend. Stick it to the opposition and see that happens.
Canterbury have a lot riding on this one – with the pressure of the Minor Premiership they’ll undoubtedly talk down but it’ll linger in the back of the mind. Success is contagious and has been with this team all year. They will do their thing and try get the win. Offloading forwards, hole-hitting halves and speedy backs all do their job like clockwork in this team. Each cog turns, and it turns perfectly.
THE BATTLE OF: X-Factor Fullbacks! Josh Dugan is the Raider’s to go guy in their time of need. Freakishly skilful and defying pace, this kid has the world on a string when he stays injury free. A proven success at first grade, he can change the game by himself.
Ben Barba is this years Dally M Player Of The Year for sure. I can not think of anyone else who will win it that deserves this title as much as he does. He has time and time again produced game winning miracles with his magic. The best player in the competition to watch.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Shaun Fensom – Starch is what this guy is made of because on defence there is no one better for Canberra. He leads by example with his endless tackles and another top effort is needed here.
Krisnan Inu – Possibly the best mid-season buy a club has made all season and he is making the most of it. He is killing it. Absolutely. Can’t do anything wrong.
Despite their season on the line, I find it truly hard for anyone to beat this Bulldogs team. A 30-20 scoreline in favour of the Doggies.
Follow Stephen Gallagher on Twitter