After recording a much need and rare away win over the Titans in round 20, the Eels made it con-secutive victories by accounting for the Sharks last week 32 – 12 at Remondis Stadium.
Despite this being a “home” game, the Eels will be further still from Pirtek Stadium this week as they draw the Raiders out of the cold Canberra conditions and into the tropical climate of the Norther Territory.
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The past fortnight’s wins have kept the Eels’s finals hopes alive but, sitting on ninth spot on the ladder, equal with the Warriors and Cowboys who face the Sharks and Tigers respectively this weekend, a loss over the next five weeks will likely dash any slim hopes.
The Eels have named a strong line up again for this clash with the recent return of Will Hopoate to the centres, giving the Eels more options in the back-line and more importantly, taking pressure of star fullback Jarryd Hayne, who has scored a double in each game since Hopoate’s return.
If keeping their season alive wasn’t motivation enough, the Eels also have the opportunity to inflict more pain on former Coach Ricky Stuart who has gone from the frying pan to the fire this year with the Raiders after controversially leaving the Eels last year.
After describing their 34 – 14 loss to the Rabbitohs in round 20 as “not of a first grade standard”, Coach Ricky Stuart must’ve been lost for words as he watched his side lose 54 – 18 against the Warriors last week.
It was the Raiders seventh loss from their past eight matches and their third consecutive loss by a 13+ margin, of which they unfortunately boast eight this season.
Adding to their woes are a several injuries which have contributed to a significant reshuffle of the side for this week’s clash.
Edrick Lee and Jack Wighton return with Jordan Rupana to make his debut at fullback, allowing Anthony Milford to cover for the injured Terry Campese at five-eight.
Shannon Boyd and Matt McIllwrick come in for injured duo David Shillington and Shaun Fensom with Mitch Cornish named on a five man bench.
If Stuart can salvage anything out of this year, it will be a win over the Eels but it look like the Raid-ers woeful year will continue here.
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HEAD TO HEAD
After some dreadful performances in recent weeks, the one positive the Raiders have for this week is their recent winning record over the Eels.
They’ve won the last four clashes, each by 10 points or more and capitalising on a halftime lead on each occasion however, the Eels are going better this year than at anytime in the previous three seasons whilst it’s hard imagine the Raiders in worse form than they are at the moment.
The Eels have a their season on the line and revenge in the back of the mind and that’ll see them home here.
Eels: Jarryd Hayne, Semi Radradra, William Hopoate, Ryan Morgan, Bureta Faraimo, Corey Norman, Chris Sandow, Tim Mannah, Isaac De Gois, Fuifui Moimoi, Ken Edwards, Tepai Moeroa, Joseph Paulo. Interchange: Peni Terepo, Pauli Pauli, Ben Smith, Junior Paulo
Ins: Ken Edwards. Outs: David Gower
Raiders: Jordan Rapana, Bill Tupou, Jarrod Croker, Jack Wighton, Edrick Lee, Anthony Milford, Josh McCrone, Shannon Boyd, Glen Buttriss, Brett White, Josh Papalii, Jarrad Kennedy, Matt McIlwrick. Interchange: Mitch Cornish, Joel Edwards, Dane Tilse, Paul Vaughan, Mark Nicholls
Ins: Jordan Rapana, Bill Tupou, Edrick Lee, Jack Wighton, Matt McIlwrick, Mitch Cornish, Mark Nicholls. Outs: Reece Robinson (back, round 23), Brenko Lee (hamstring, indefinite), Terry Campese (oblique, round 23), David Shillington (pectoral, season), Kurt Baptiste (shoulder, season), Shaun Fensom (ACL, season), Sami Sauiluma (ankle, indefinite)