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Canberra Raiders attempt to back up their impressive opening round display when they play host to traditional juggernauts Melbourne Storm in NRL Round 2 action on Friday night.
Both the Raiders and Storm started the season with a bang last week, but who will make it two wins from two to launch 2019 in the nation’s capital on Friday night?
These two sides played out a gripping preliminary final showdown back in 2016, but while the Storm prevailed and kicked on as they normally do after that, the Raiders faded back into relative obscurity, missing out on a finals spot the last two seasons.
On their day, Canberra can match it with any side in the competition, but their defence and general discipline consistently let them down, while they also lost countless matches by a margin of six points or less.
Attack has never been an issue for the Raiders, but defence has been – and that’s why Ricky Stuart has come out and revealed his side have been working almost solely on the latter this past off-season.
It showed during the opening round last week, with Canberra holding the Titans out for the entire 80 minutes as they registered a 21-0 victory. Can they reproduce that effort on Friday night?
Obviously Melbourne are an entirely different proposition, but they will fancy themselves.
As they’ve done every season since Craig Bellamy took over at the helm, the Storm emerged triumphant in the opening round, gliding past the Broncos by a 22-12 scoreline.
It wasn’t the most polished of performances, especially as Brisbane threatened to claw their way back into the contest in the second half, but a runaway try to Jesse Bromwich with 12 minutes to go ultimately sealed the game.
Bellamy always has his teams prepared for the opening round, and while they weren’t operating as a slick and well-oiled machine, it was more than enough to get the job done.
However, I can the Storm can expect a much tougher battle in Canberra on Friday night. Since 2014, the sides are split at two wins apiece at the venue, with all of the margins relatively tight. With the Raiders’ new look defence, I think this will be a low-scoring game – and whoever’s defence holds firm will come away with the win.
Raiders: 1 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2 Nick Cotric 3 Jarrod Croker 4 Joseph Leilua 5 Jordan Rapana 6 Jack Wighton 7 Aidan Sezer 8 Josh Papalii 9 Josh Hodgson 10 Sia Soliola 11 Joe Tapine 12 Elliott Whitehead 13 John Bateman.
Interchange: 14 Siliva Havili 15 Ryan Sutton 16 Iosia Sloliola 17 Corey Horsburgh Reserves: 18 Sam Williams 19 JJ Collins 20 Bailey Simonsson 21 Jack Murchie.
Storm: 1 Jahrome Hughes 2 Suliasi Vunivalu 3 William Chambers 4 Curtis Scott 5 Joshua Addo-Carr 6 Cameron Munster 7 Brodie Croft 8 Jesse Bromwich 9 Cameron Smith (c) 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11 Felise Kaufusi 12 Kenny Bromwich 13 Dale Finucane.
Interchange: 14 Brandon Smith 15 Christian Welch 16 Tui Kamikamica 17 Patrick Kaufusi. Reserves: 18 Marion Seve 19 Albert Vete 20 Ryan Papenhuyzen 21 Billy Walters.