NRL Round 12: Bulldogs v Raiders Preview & Betting Tips
Canberra has lost three straight and their makeshift team need to turn their luck around against the battling Bulldogs.
Canterbury Bulldogs v Canberra Raiders – ANZ Stadium – 7:35 pm
Canterbury’s 28-6 loss at their spiritual Belmore against Melbourne was a swift return to reality after a promising win over Gold Coast. The scoreline flattered the Bulldogs who – unlike in round four – were unable to capitalise on the Storm’s lacklustre early performance. Their only try coming from a neat play involving middle forwards Dylan Napa, Aiden Tolman and Jesse Sue summed up another forgettable attacking afternoon.
Coach Dean Pay has shown faith in the likes of halfback Jack Cogger and hooker Jeremy Marshall-King and while there will be inevitable teething problems with these inexperienced playmakers, the Dogs need to give themselves a better shot at points with improved ball-handling. While the Dogs may only be losing one player to Origin duties, it happens to be their most important forward in Dylan Napa and means the likes of Tolman and Josh Jackson need to pick up the slack. Even with their consistent attacking problems, Canterbury in their current position will never have a better shot at defeating the ravaged Raiders and need to take advantage of this opportunity.
What a horror three weeks it’s been for Canberra. Their promising season start which saw them contending for the top four has suddenly hit a brick wall with three straight losses and a casualty list threatening to make Raider woes even worse. Their 22-16 loss at home to North Queensland was an upset the Raiders couldn’t afford but could only have themselves to blame. Too many handling errors and soft penalties meant Canberra had to play catch-up footy against a Jason Taumalolo-inspired Cowboys – never an easy task.
Arguably Canberra’s most important player Josh Hodgson exited early due a thumb fracture which means a likely six weeks out and worryingly with the English hooker’s departure they lost their attacking structure. Hodgson now joins a formidable list of unavailable Raiders including Jordan Rapana, Joseph Leilua, John Bateman (injuries) plus Josh Papalii, Nick Cotric and Jack Wighton (Origin).
It means a fixture which four weeks ago the Raiders may have been looking at for a launching pad potentially into the top two suddenly becomes must-win and will see a raft of new combinations introduced by coach Ricky Stuart. One potential selection positive though is in Aiden Sezer the Raiders at least have an experienced playmaker to step in for Wighton’s absence. Sezer has fallen out of favour with the Raiders and has been linked with a mid-season departure however a strong performance here is non-negotiable.
Papalii’s loss is a massive blow and means Elliott Whitehead may have to take the mantle as the pack leader, the Englishman a seasoned pro in NRL and a potential creative outlet for a new look Canberra team. The Raiders have made a habit of losing tight games – they have to learn how to squeeze out the tough wins if they want to reach finals footy.
Key stats: These sides met in an Origin-impacted clash last season – the Raiders won 32-28 away. The Raiders have also won 4 of their last 5 against the Dogs. In their head-to-head history, Jarrod Croker is tied with Terry Lamb for most tries scored overall at 9. The Dogs have not led at half-time in their last seven starts.
Tip: Raiders - $1.90* (Ladbrokes)
Best bet: Raiders to score first - $1.90* (Ladbrokes)
Value bet: Raiders to win first half - $2.02* (Ladbrokes)