NRL Round 23 - Monday Preview

Canberra Raiders v Melbourne Storm @ GIO Stadium

 The Raiders test their premiership material with a home blockbuster against the Storm at GIO Stadium in Canberra on Monday Night. The Raiders outlined their Top 4 credentials last week with a stunningly brutal 30-14 demolition of premiership heavyweights Cronulla at Shark Park. The Storm claimed outright lead of 1st possession with the Sharks slip up, however were unconvincing in their 15-14 golden point win over Souths. The Storm can go a long way to locking up the minor premiership with a win while the Raiders can further entrench themselves in the Top 4.

 With both sides riding the back of 6 match winning streaks the NRL's 2 form teams are a contrast in styles. Melbourne have the best defence in the competition by a stretch, conceding a staggeringly low 11 points per match in 2016. Whilst Craig Bellamy has crafted his title hope on a typically stringy rear guard the Raiders are not so watertight. The Raiders only rank mid table defensively, however they have the best attack in the NRL averaging over 27 points per game. 

 The overall record between these 2 sides is heavily in the Storm's favour, winning 26 from 36 overall encounters. However the last 6 clashes have seen both sides collect 3 wins. The Storm's record in the close games has been exemplary this season winning all 4 games they have been involved in that have decided by 2 or less points. The Raiders have turned around last year's near misses to win a number of close games including 2 in golden point. 

 Verdict - I'm leaning towards the Raiders purely because it's a Monday Night in Canberra where they have a great record. I think it would be a different story if these 2 teams were to meet in the finals. However the Raiders are red hot right now and they might be able to sneak home here. Melbourne have been a little off in the last few weeks and might just be coasting a little with a Top 2 spot locked in. Raiders by 4.