Rise against the machine

The Warriors come in to this game off the back of their first 80-minute performance of the year. They were disciplined, patient and then kicked away in the final 20 minutes. The game plan was clear: keep it tight early on, do all the basics right, control possession and territory, and attack once the opposition starts to tire. After a stuttery start, they started to run like a well-oiled machine.

The men from Mt Smart showed us a world without errors and penalties, without panic or frustration. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from here is a choice that’s up to them.

But any Warriors fan who has been around long enough knows that one swallow doesn’t make a summer. The Green Machine are likely to pose a much bigger threat than a beaten-up Titans squad. This Canberra backline is young and explosive, with Blake Austin, in particular, lurking with intent. He might look like more like a Cletus than a Blake, but Austin has arguably been the buy of the season, turning himself into one of the best support players in the competition. The Warriors will need to attach themselves tightly to Austin, or he’ll be feasting on offloads all night long.

The Raiders are also expected to give their new signing, the Cookie Monster Joseph Leilua, his first start in green, but personally I think that might be a good thing for the men from Mt Smart, as I can’t see anyone in this Canberra backline who doesn’t fully deserve their place in the side.

Ricky Stuart has a tough decision to make.

On the other hand, the Warriors will be out to prove that last week wasn’t just a case of beating up on a weak opposition, that instead they’ve finally turned the corner and found the key to success we’ve all been looking for all season.

They’ll also have extra motivation to perform, with a #OnesieParty planned to celebrate milestone matches for Jacob Lillyman and Bodene Thompson. Lillyman, especially, was outstanding last week and he’ll be looking for another big game so he can retain his place in the Queensland side for the Origin decider. The Warriors forwards laid a great platform on the GC, and the degree to which they are able to repeat the dose will go a long way towards deciding this fixture.

What to watch for

Sam Tomkins is someone I’ll be watching closely for the rest of the year. His time in the NRL hasn’t gone exactly to plan, but his organisational skills do seem to have a big impact on this Warriors side, and I imagine he wants to finish the season with a bang to prove all those naysayers wrong. Watch out for when Tomkins jumps in at first receiver, pushing Shaun Johnson out wider where his acceleration is put to best use running at tired forwards and creating space for himself or the outside backs.

Also, for anyone that can make it to the game or tune in early, the NSW Cup fixture promises to be interesting, with the likes of Matthew Allwood and Glen Fisiiahi back in the mix and young standoff Ata Hingano making the step up from NYC.

NRL Warrior prediction

Another week, another massive game. The Raiders have been impressive this year, racking up some big scores, but a number of tight losses leave them without the position on the ladder to show for all their good work. They’ll be tough opposition, but the home crowd and another strong performance from the forwards should get the men from Mt Smart narrowly across the line. Warriors by 6.

Highlights from the previous meeting

Teams

WARRIORS

1 Sam Tomkins

2 Tuimoala Lolohea

3 Konrad Hurrell

4 Solomone Kata

5 Manu Vatuvei

6 Chad Townsend

7 Shaun Johnson

8 Jacob Lillyman

9 Nathan Friend

10 Ben Matulino

11 Bodene Thompson

12 Ryan Hoffman

13 Simon Mannering (c)

Interchange

14 Siliva Havili

15 Raymond Faitala-Mariner

16 Charlie Gubb

17 Albert Vete

RAIDERS

1 Jack Wighton

2 Edrick Lee

3 Jarrod Croker (c)

4 Sisa Waqa

5 Jordan Rapana

6 Blake Austin

7 Sam Williams

8 Paul Vaughan

9 Josh Hodgson

10 David Shillington

11 Josh Papalii

12 Iosia Soliola

13 Shaun Fensom

Interchange

14 Kurt Baptiste

15 Jarrad Kennedy

16 Frank-Paul Nuuausala

17 Shannon Boyd

18 Joseph Leilua (expected to play)

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