23 April 2024

Top of the ladder clashes are moments of truth for the Brumbies and the Raiders

| Tim Gavel
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There’s more than points on the line when the Raiders take on the Sharks this Sunday. Photo: Jaye Grieshaber.

There is something special when the Raiders face the Sharks in the NRL. Even more so this weekend, with the Sharks riding high on top of the ladder with five wins from six games in the first six, while the seventh-placed Raiders need to win to stay in the top eight following the 34-10 loss to the Broncos.

Life without in-form halfback Jamal Fogarty for at least the next three months starts this Sunday for the Raiders. His absence makes way for 22-year-old Kaeo Weekes.

In the background is the club’s pursuit of the NSW under-19 Origin halfback Ethan Sanders, currently under contract at Parramatta.

Jamal Fogerty

The Raiders will miss Jamal Fogarty as he recovers from a bicep injury. Photo: Instagram.

I’m actually enjoying the youth policy at the Raiders.

Chevy Stewart is quickly learning why the NRL is among the toughest and most physical competitions in the world, but against Brisbane, he dusted himself off time and time again as he faced an 80-minute barrage from the Broncos.

Chevy Stewart made his NRL debut against the Titans in Round 6, 2024. Photo: Jaye Grieshaber.

Chevy Stewart made his NRL debut on 14 April for the Raiders. Photo: Jaye Grieshaber.

The physicality could even lift to a level higher this Sunday as the Raiders seem to always bring out the best in the Sharks.

The two clubs have a fair rivalry, although it’s hard to identify when or why it went up a notch or two.

It could be because Ricky Stuart was a one-time coach of the Sharks, or because Michael Ennis mocked the Viking Clap, or maybe it’s because Paul Gallen accused Josh Papali’i of a “dog shot” in 2012. It could be a combination of all three. Who knows?

But just when everyone thought the fire was dying down between the two clubs, along comes Corey Horsburgh and Royce Hunt. Hunt called Horsburgh a “weak-gutted dog” after a clash between the sides in March last year after Hunt was held in the scrum by Horsburgh and subsequently decided to retaliate. Hunt ended up in the bin for striking. Horsburgh responded by posting a picture of Corey holding a small child with Royce’s head superimposed on the child. The caption read: “Really happy for my little boy watching daddy score 2 tries.”

READ MORE There’s a lot to like about the Raiders youth brigade

Four rounds ago, the two sides met at Shark Park, where the Sharks recovered from being down 18-0 to come over the top of the Raiders in the 36-22 victory.

Sunday’s game is a test of character for the Raiders following the loss to the Broncos.

The Raiders’ four wins this season have come against teams ranked 13th to 17th, so the Sharks, sitting at the top of the ladder, offer a hefty challenge.

Brumbies versus the Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium.

Brumbies versus the Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium in 2022. Photo: Tim Gavel.

The Brumbies face a similarly daunting task on Saturday afternoon against a Hurricanes side that has so far taken all before them this season with eight wins in a row.

The Brumbies have maintained third place on the ladder despite the 46-7 loss to the Blues.

The similarities with the Chiefs game in Round 2, where the Kiwi team thrashed the Brumbies 46-12, were clearly evident.

The Brumbies were destroyed physically in both games. It was a reminder that you underestimate New Zealand Super Rugby teams at your peril.

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The Brumbies have only beaten one Kiwi side this season and that was the Highlanders in Round 4.

There is also a strong sense of rivalry between the Brumbies and the Hurricanes, the two teams based in the capital cities of the two countries.

Last season, the Brumbies accounted for the Hurricanes 37-33 in a frantic quarter-final.

Steve Larkham will still have memories of the day in Wellington in 2001 when Jonah Lomu ran rampant for the Canes against the Brumbies.

It was one of only three losses that season for the Brumbies on their way to their first Super Rugby title.

Saturday afternoon’s game presents an opportunity for the Brumbies to springboard their season and declare their credentials as a genuine contender for this year’s title.

The Brumbies take on the Hurricanes at GIO Stadium at 2:35 pm on Saturday, 27 April. Tickets from Ticketek.

The Canberra Raiders face the Sharks at GIO Stadium at 4:05 pm on Sunday, 28 April. Tickets from Ticketek.

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