31st March 2021, 14:35 | nrl
England halfback George Williams has vowed to “put some wrongs right” when an injury-hit Canberra side take on the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday as part of a COVID-19 inspired double-header at Sydney’s Netstrata Jubilee Oval.
After suffering a heartbreaking 34-31 loss to the Warriors last weekend in a match in which they led 25-6 but were run down when forced to play with just one man on the bench and injured players on the field, the Raiders are down on troops and will be looking for Williams, Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead.
Canberra’s fourth England international Ryan Sutton will start at lock in place of Kiwi forward Joseph Tapine (ankle), while centre Curtis Scott has been ruled out with a rib injury and forwards Ryan James and Sebastian Kris are in doubt after clashing heads in the opening minutes.
Despite the heavy injury toll, which prompted the NRL to this week announce the introduction of an 18th man if three players from the same team are ruled out during a match with HIAs, the Raiders only lost in the final 90 seconds when Warriors centre Adam Pompey scored.
Williams believes he could have done a better job of game management and plans to make amends when Canberra meet the Titans in the second match of the double-header with the Sharks-Cowboys, who had been scheduled to play on the Sunshine Coast.
“As a halfback I have got to be in control and I probably wasn’t the best at that in the last 10 minutes of the game,” Williams said.
“I blame myself a little but for a kick I did to Ken Maumalo and it just gave them momentum. I’ll be better there and I am excited for the weekend to put some wrongs right.”
With a COVID-19 outbreak in Brisbane, the Raiders-Titans match was moved from the Gold Coast to Sydney, along with the Sharks-Cowboys clash, while the Broncos have relocated to Sydney and the Bulldogs are in a bubble following last weekend’s trip the Queensland capital.
Of more immediate concern for Williams is the toll of their clash with the Warriors and he revealed that Scott had battled through the match in extreme pain after breaking a rib in the third minute.
“I was defending and playing next to him and I felt sorry for him,” Williams said of Scott. “He was obviously in a world of pain but he did a great job just to get through the match.
“I think he did it in the third minute so credit to him and that is the kind of character and desire we showed on the weekend
“The only time we could talk was when we conceded tries. It was that fast and the momentum was that quick.”
Round four starts with Penrith travelling to Manly to take on the out-of-sorts Sea Eagles, who are facing their worst start to a season since 2009 if they lose again after last weekend’s 38-12 hammering by St George Illawarra.
The Panthers are one of just two unbeaten teams, along with Parramatta, after snatching a 12-10 win against Melbourne last weekend.
At the other end of the ladder, Canterbury are yet to win a game, along with Manly and North Queensland, and they are unlikely to do so on Friday when they meet South Sydney in the annual Good Friday match, with the Rabbitohs again impressive in last weekend’s 26-16 win over Sydney Roosters.
Melbourne host Brisbane, who are coming off a 24-0 shutout of the Bulldogs, while the Storm are in their lowest position on the premiership ladder since 2010 and sit one place behind the Broncos in 11th.
The Sharks will be looking to bounce back against the Cowboys after last weekend’s 28-4 loss to Parramatta, in a match in which they had to play the entire second half with no players on the bench following three HIAs and a knee injury suffered by winger Sione Katoa.
The Roosters also suffered a heavy injury toll in their loss to Souths, with star playmaker Luke Keary out for the season with a ruptured ACL, halfback Lachlan Lam – the son of Wigan coach Adrian Lam – also injuring his knee injury and Queensland Origin prop Lindsay Collins an ankle.
Boom rookie Sam Walker, the 18-year-old son of former Leeds Rhinos playmaker Ben Walker, will make his eagerly awaited debut at halfback for the Roosters in Sunday’s match against the New Zealand Warriors at the SCG.
The Dragons travel to Newcastle earlier on Sunday, with Knights coach Adrian O’Brien having named Huddersfield product Dom Young in an extended squad after his NRL debut in last weekend’s loss to Wests Tigers.
The Tigers will be aiming to back up their performance by defeating the high flying Eels in the final match of the Easter weekend on Monday at Stadium Australia.