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Key Match-Up: Round 3 vs. Raiders

Brock Corfe (Twitter: @Brock_Corfe)

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Wests Tigers head to GIO Stadium this weekend in search of revenge against the Canberra Raiders, with playmakers Mitchell Moses and Blake Austin set to go head-to-head in an exciting Phil Gilbert Motor Group Key Match-Up.

Moses’ side suffered two heavy defeats during 2016 to the Canberra Raiders, however Austin missed both of those encounters through injury.

It’s an intriguing battle between two former Wests Tigers teammates, with the pair playing alongside one another during Moses’ debut season in 2014.

Moses will be out to continue his superb 2016 form, with the exciting pivot leading a late season resurgence and eventually winning the Wests Tigers’ Player of the Year award.

The Carlingford Cougars junior was one of the best performers in the Club’s opening round game against the Rabbitohs, combining with David Nofoaluma and James Tedesco for a thrilling try.

On the other hand, Austin has excelled during his time with the Raiders, scoring 22 tries in 42 appearances and leading the Club to their first finals appearance last year since 2012.

The Raiders have opened their 2017 campaign with consecutive losses, so there’s no doubt Austin and his teammates will be desperate to make amends, particularly after 42-16 loss to the Sharks at home last weekend.

In what is going to be a cracking game between two entertaining sides, other notable match-ups include Tedesco v Jack Wighton, Luke Brooks v Aidan Sezer, Sauaso Sue v Josh Papalii and Aaron Woods v Junior Paulo.

However, it’s the battle between Moses and Austin that will hold the key in this one – expect a fierce clash between two very competitive players.

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Despite Canberra holding a commanding advantage over Wests Tigers recently, remarkably Mitch Moses and Blake Austin have only met each other twice previously – and the pair have one win apiece.

Moses has faced the Canberra Raiders on five occasions, winning just the once in 2015, with Wests Tigers recording a narrow 20-18 victory at GIO Stadium.

During his time with the Raiders and the Penrith Panthers, Austin has played against Wests Tigers four times – winning just one of those games.  

Back in 2014, Moses and Austin were the starting halves for Wests Tigers against Canberra, with the Raiders recording a 27-12 win in the nation’s capital.

Goal-kicking on the rise…

In 2016, Moses shared the goal-kicking duties with winger Jordan Rankin and was converting at just 62%.

While it’s still only very early in the season, his hard work in the off-season seems to be paying off already, missing just one goal from seven attempts.

Perhaps the most impressive was last weekend’s penalty goal attempt from 41 metres out – which unfortunately ended up being Wests Tigers’ only points in a forgettable outing against the Panthers.

Moses spends plenty of time after training practicing his goal kicking, with Head Coach Jason Taylor, a former sharp-shooter himself, providing some useful advice.

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What will Austin bring...

Wests Tigers fans will be eager to forget the Club's past two clashes against Canberra, with a horrible combined scoreline of 112-16 in 2016.

As mentioned above, Austin missed those two clashes through injury, with Sam Williams taking his place in the halves.

The return of Austin will no doubt add another element to the Raiders' attack, however in his last outing against Wests Tigers in 2015, the Raiders went down 20-18 at GIO Stadium.

The Doonside junior is known for his strong running game, including his trademark 'show-and-go' that Wests Tigers' defenders will need to wary of.

What he said…

Ricky Stuart on the Wests Tigers’ attack:

“They get a lot of energy out of their attack, they are a very fast and sharp attacking team and you just have to be good defensively,” Stuart said. “They have got smart halves, they have got a lot of speed and power on the edges.

“They are a good football team and after 30 minutes of last weekend’s game it was still 2-all against Penrith, so we are under no illusions on how hard it is going to be.”