Raiders keep Dogs at bay and get ready for the Roosters
Tough tackle … Penrith gang up on Sam Mataora. Photo: Getty Images
IT SHAPES as the Canberra Raiders' biggest home match in two years, with the potential to make or break their season.
But Raiders skipper David Shillington has urged his side to forget about next week's blockbuster against Canterbury and focus all its energies toward Saturday's do-or-die clash with the Sydney Roosters.
Should they win this week, their meeting with the Bulldogs, who have won their past 11 games, could be their most important game at Canberra Stadium since the 2010 semi-final against Wests Tigers.
A win over the Roosters would allow Canberra to square its season ledger at 11-11, and remain well and truly in the finals hunt, with two rounds remaining.
''We've just got to keep focused when the time is right this weekend,'' Shillington said.
''I think the coaching staff will freshen us up and we'll have a pretty light week, but come Friday's captain's run we have to make sure we're primed and ready to go.''
Raiders officials are confident of drawing the biggest home crowd of the season for the round 25 clash with the Bulldogs.
However, the Raiders' only home match on a Friday night this year would lose much of its lustre should the Roosters crush their finals hopes.
Upsets have been a commonplace recently as teams that are out of the finals adopt an all-or-nothing approach.
Penrith's carefree ''razzle dazzle'' style caused the Raiders early headaches on Sunday's 20-10 win at Centrebet Stadium.
With the pressure valve released, the Panthers played expansive football and Shillington expects the Roosters to adopt a similar style.
''They've got nothing to lose, which is dangerous - look at the Eels recently,'' Shillington said.
''I've been in teams … where if you've got nothing to lose, you have a bit of fun. Sometimes when you're having fun you play better footy, when you take things too seriously things can go wrong.
''I can imagine them throwing Martin Kennedy and [Jared] Waerea-Hargreaves into us one after the other and shifting it through [Mitchell] Pearce and [Braith] Anasta; pretty similar to Penrith.''
Penrith executed 24 offloads to Canberra's 10, an issue the Raiders plan to address, having conceded the fourth-most offloads this year.
''To Penrith's credit they threw everything at us at the start; their forwards were running with real intent, hitting and spinning and throwing offloads everywhere,'' Shillington said.
''We scrambled well, but we could have saved a lot of that energy for the back end if we had better first-up contact and wrestle.''
Canberra coach David Furner admitted it is crucial they shut down the Roosters' second phase play to quell their ad lib style.
''We've got to address that first half; we weren't as clinical as we should have been with the ball [against Penrith],'' Furner said.
''Obviously they troubled our defensive line with their offloads … it's something we have to address.''