Sea Eagles v Raiders preview

Embed from Getty Images
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Canberra Raiders Sunday 2:00pm at Lottoland

Two of the competition's early surprise packets battle it out at Brookvale

It was supposed to be the injury that would break them.

After inspiring his teammates to a 46-12 win over the Warriors, it was curtains on Manly's season when fullback Tom Trbojevic re-aggravated a hamstring injury in their Round 3 meeting with Souths.

Not many rated the Sea Eagles before a ball was kicked anyway. And losing their star attacking weapon for the next eight weeks was meant to leave Manly fans pondering what could have been.

They went on to win that game though, snapping South Sydney's three-game winning streak.

Then they took down Newcastle and last week were pipped at the post against Saints. And Des Hasler's men can consider themselves incredibly unlucky to have lost that match.

He won't want them to dwell too much on the dramatic finish of last week's game though. This week they have another test, this one against the high-flying Raiders.

Manly won the last meeting between these two sides 32-16. Trbojevic scored a try and set up four.

He won't be there on Sunday. But in his absence halfback Daly Cherry-Evans has stood up.

Jack Wighton and Sam Williams have been surprising successes as halves partners at Canberra this year. The former isn't at his best yet - still sending the odd kick dead or out on the full.

But his running game is just as dangerous. The pair have been helped by another unlikely hero in Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.

When the former Warrior was signed, he was viewed as a potential fill-in for the then injured Jordan Rapana on the wing.

Little did we know that the 23-year old would rapidly improve on his previous first-grade performances to be a dominant force in attack.

With an evasiveness and strength that shows shades of James Tedesco, Nicoll-Klokstad has thrived as one of the league's most valuable signings.

Last meeting: Round 12 2018 - Raiders 21 Sea Eagles 20

Who to watch: The battle between two starting front rowers, Martin Taupau and Josh Papalii, could be important in deciding Sunday's game.

Taupau has always been known for his explosive runs and bruising defence. And 2019 has been no different, the barnstorming prop averaging 142 running metres and 25 tackles from just 48 minutes on the field.

Papalii, however, hasn't been as consistent in recent years. While his numbers are similar to last year, he seems much fitter and more competitive playing in the front row for the first time in four years. His 40 tackles and 131 running metres last week against Brisbane were particularly impressive.

The favourite: Stronger recent form favours Canberra here.

My tip: A tough one. Canberra are due for a loss. But their pack looks far stronger on paper than that of Manly and should lead the way. Raiders by 8.

1. Brendan Elliott 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Moses Suli 4. Brad Parker 5. Reuben Garrick 20. Lachlan Croker 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Toafofoa Sipley 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Manase Fainu 15. Jack Gosiewski 16. Corey Waddell 17. Morgan Boyle

1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Sam Williams 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. John Bateman 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Ryan Sutton 14. Siliva Havili 15. Emre Guler 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Jack Murchie

Referees: Gerard Sutton, Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: David Munro, Nick Morel; Video Referees: Ashley Klein, Ben Galea;

Follow all the action LIVE in our Match Centre