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24th March 2021, 13:44 | nrl

NRL Preview | Round Three

NRL Preview | Round Three

Canberra Raiders look to maintain perfect start

Raiders centre Curtis Scott believes he and England halfback George Williams are benefitting from the lifting of the NRL’s strict biosecurity protocols as they develop a strike combination on Canberra’s right edge. 

Scott and Williams have been key players for the Raiders in their unbeaten start to the NRL season and will be looking for further strong performances against the Warriors in Canberra on Saturday.  

Williams has been responsible for three try assists in the opening two matches against Wests Tigers and Cronulla, as well as kicking seven goals, while Scott combined with England hooker Josh Hodgson to create the match winning try in last weekend’s 12-10 defeat of the Sharks.  

The pair were new to Canberra last season and with NRL players virtually restricted to training and playing to enable the competition to continue amid the COVID pandemic, they found it difficult but both are now enjoying life in the Australian capital. 

“It’s me and George’s second year now so the first year, settling in, it was a pretty destructive year with COVID and all the stuff that was going on behind the scenes,” Scott said. “But in the second year now, we are feeling a bit more confident and fitting in with the team.” 

Scott and Williams play alongside second-rower Hudson Young on Canberra’s right edge, with New Zealand rugby union convert Bailey Simonnson outside them on the wing. 

“It is only early in the season but I think it is starting to show that we have worked really hard,” Scott said. “We probably weren’t the best out there at times last year but we look to better things this year and we are trying to play the best footy that we can.” 

The Raiders will need to be at their best against a Warriors team boasting one of the best forward packs in the NRL following the off-season recruitment of Tongan World Cup forwards Addin Fonua-Blake and Ben Murdoch-Masila. 

Canberra boast arguably the greatest depth of any team, with England second-rower Elliott Whitehead, Kiwi lock Joseph Tapine and Queensland Origin props Josh Papali’i and Dunamis Lui packing down alongside Hodgson and Young. 

The interchange bench of former St Helens enforcer Sia Soliola, ex-Wigan prop Ryan Sutton, Indigenous All Stars front-rower Ryan James and Tonga hooker Siliva Havili acting like a second platoon as they lift the intensity when they are thrust into action. 

The Raiders backline will be bolstered by the return of captain Jarrod Croker from a shoulder injury and Williams will hand the goal-kicking duties over to the star centre. 

Meanwhile, Melbourne will look to return to the winner’s circle when they host Penrith on Thursday in a re-match of last year’s grand final after losing to Parramatta 16-12 last weekend. 

The loss leaves the Storm outside the top eight for the first time since 2014 and they will be without injured fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, the Clive Churchill Medal winner as man-of-the-match in last year’s grand final triumph. 

The Panthers have lost halfback Nathan Cleary after he was concussed last weekend by a high shot from Canterbury winger and New Zealand captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. 

St George Illawarra host the winless Manly on Friday before the latest instalment in the NRL’s oldest rivalry between the Wayne Bennett-coached South Sydney and Trent Robinson’s Sydney Roosters. 

Brisbane and Canterbury will both be looking for their first win of 2021 when they meet on Saturday, before the Eels take on Cronulla at Bankwest Stadium. 

Newcastle will be looking to inflict another defeat on Wests Tigers in Mitchell Pearce’s 300th match on Sunday before Gold Coast travel to North Queensland for the final match of the round. 

 

Written by NRL Senior Journalist Brad Walter