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Five things we learned from Raiders v Panthers

Five things we learned from Raiders v Panthers Written by MARK ST JOHN, March 5, 2016

THE Raiders beat the Panthers 26-22 on a perfect day for rugby league in our Nation’s Capital. Here are the five things RLW learned:

1. Blake Austin has picked up where he left off last season.
The Raiders’ best player from last season has help from new recruit Aidan Sezer in 2016 but it remains clear who the focal point of Canberra’s attack is. Austin had two tackle breaks, a linebreak, a linebreak assist, a try assist and a try and that was just in the first 20 minutes. It might be round one but surely Blues coach Laurie Daley can’t ignore this guy again this season especially with Mitchell Pearce suspended for eight weeks. Let’s hope a medial ligament injury suffered in the second half doesn’t rob him of a first Blues jersey. His 72 metre drop out was special.

2. Aidan Sezer could be the next Ricky Stuart in Canberra.
Not since their coach donned the famous lime green have the Raiders had such a composed player in their number seven jersey. His left foot kicking compliments Austin’s right boot perfectly and he scored two tries on debut at GIO Stadium this afternoon. Brett Finch and Todd Carney were brilliant at times but in Sezer the Raiders have a reliable kicker in general play and someone who can make the right decisions under pressure on a regular basis and who better to coach the new Stuart than Stuart himself.

3. The Dragons will miss Trent Merrin.
The new Penrith recruit looks leaner and meaner in 2016 perhaps in response to the new interchange rules and the Panthers look set to reap the benefits. Apart from being a State and Australian representative the main reason the Dragons would have been sad to see Merrin go is that he hasn’t yet reached his potential and with a try scoring debut for the ‘Chocolate Soldiers’ early signs suggest Merrin could be in for his biggest year yet.

4. New season, same old Raiders defence.
They started better but against an uninspiring Penrith attack the Raiders should have done better defensively today. Mirroring their fortunes last season the Raiders looked irresistible at times in attack but downright pathetic at times in defence and if round one is any guide there could be some high scoring encounters when the green machine come up against the attacking heavyweights like the Cowboys. Given their dominance in the first 40 minutes a 16-all score line heavily flattered the Panthers after some woeful Raiders defensive lapses.

5. The Soward/Wallace halves combination is finished.
I’m not prepared to write both players off but it is quite clear the Panthers attack needs a shake up and the long-time halves partners have become too predictable as a tandem. Wallace and Soward are too similar with ball in hand and the Panthers would be better served by partnering one of the two with Matt Moylan or livewire Te Marie Martin if they want to challenge the better defences in the competition.

Raiders 30 (Sezer 2, Lee, Austin, Fensom tries; Croker 4 goals) beat Panthers 22 (Merrin, Hiku, Mansour tries; Soward 5 goals)

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