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Canberra’s ‘Leipana’ has terrorised the Tigers

While Ricky Stuart's focus is on fixing his defence, the Wests Tigers will have at least one eye on the Canberra Raiders attack.

Especially the attack from the Raiders' potent right edge.

The Tigers come to Canberra Stadium knowing a win on Sunday will bring them within two points of the NRL top eight, but they also know they're facing a team that's had their number recently.

"Leipana" has terrorised the Wests Tigers.

“Leipana” has terrorised the Wests Tigers.

Canberra have won all four of their last meetings by an average margin of 43 points.

A big part of that has been the Green Machine's exciting right wing-centre combination of Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua, with the duo known as "Leipana" scoring 13 tries between them in those four games.

Josh Papalii (four), Joe Tapine (three), Blake Austin (two), Nick Cotric (two) and Elliott Whitehead (two) have also cashed in on the torment, while Wests will be happy Raiders captain Jarrod Croker (three) won't be there after having season-ending knee surgery.

It's something the Tigers only need to look back less than two months to be aware of.

They dominated the opening 20 minutes against the Raiders at Campbelltown, but still walked away on the wrong end of a 48-12 hiding where Leilua and Tapine scored doubles.

But it's the least of Stuart's concerns, with the Canberra mentor putting his team on notice over their defensive frailties.

Stuart puts the Raiders' inability to defend a lead down to those frailties.

The Green Machine have lost five games so far this season where they led by 10 points or more.

It's meant they could be the first team to lead the NRL in scoring, but still miss out on the finals.

One of those leads they let slip was last week against the Penrith Panthers, where they lost 40-31 after being up 26-12 at half-time.

"Attack is the least of my concerns. I would rather win 6-4 than lose 40-31. My attack is the least of my concerns. It's people buying in to defence," Stuart said.

It's a sentiment Leilua shares.

He scored a hat-trick against the Panthers and has scored five tries in the last four outings against Wests.

But he'd happily trade those tries in in exchange for the two points.

"I'd rather not score three tries and win than score three tries and lose," Leilua said.

"We need to focus on what we need to get better at. That's completing our sets. We came out after half-time [against Penrith] and didn't complete until the fifth set.

"We've got to do that first and then hopefully win some games.

"It's good to be back home [at Canberra Stadium], it feels like we've been away forever and hopefully we get some Green Machine fans out there to come support us."

Raiders acting captain Josh Hodgson said the Tigers have had a momentum change since they faced each other two months ago.

Not only do they come in buoyed by the Brisbane Broncos' loss on Thursday night, opening the finals door, but they had been bolstered by some additional personal since then.

While they've lost back Corey Thompson (ankle), they've gained fullback Moses Mbye from Canterbury and hooker Robbie Farah from South Sydney.

Plus the biggest in of five-eighth Benji Marshall (calf), who boasts 17 wins from his 18 games against the Raiders over his 16-year career.

"How we played then was really direct and our big boys put their best foot forward," Hodgson said of their last encounter against Wests.

"They’ve had a momentum change since then, they’ve been playing well. Robbie Farah has come into the team which seems to give them a bit of direction around nine.

"You do look back at what worked back then, but things have changed a little bit since then.

"We’re going to have to be good because when a team is chasing the eight and they’re really hungry, they’re going to come down here firing."


Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Wests Tigers at Canberra Stadium, 2pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

Raiders team: 1. Nick Cotric, 2. Brad Abbey, 3. Blake Austin, 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Aidan Sezer, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Sia Soliola, 9. Josh Hodgson (c), 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Joe Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Josh Papalii. Interchange from: 14. Dunamis Lui, 15. Shannon Boyd, 16. Siliva Havili, 17. Luke Bateman, 18. Liam Knight, 19. Jack Murchie.

Tigers team: 1. Moses Mbye, 2. David Nofoaluma, 3. Esan Marsters, 4. Kevin Naiqama, 5. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 6. Benji Marshall, 7. Luke Brooks, 8. Russell Packer (c), 9. Robbie Farah, 10. Ben Matulino, 11. Michael Chee Kam, 12. Luke Garner, 13. Elijah Taylor. Interchange from: 14. Alex Twal, 15. Sauaso Sue, 16. Robbie Rochow, 17. Matt Eisenhuth, 18. Jacob Liddle, 21. Mahe Fonua.

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