Key match-ups in Raiders-Panthers NRL semi

Josh Hodgson v Peter Wallace

Both hookers have been one of the key components in their side’s charge to the semi-final. Hodgson has been the most accomplished No.9 this season and is so dangerous in attack around the ruck.

Wallace made a surprise move from the halves to hooker earlier this year, but the shift by Panthers coach Anthony Griffin has proved to be a masterstroke.

Wallace combines perfectly with Matt Moylan, Nathan Cleary and Bryce Cartwright in the Panthers unorthodox offensive structure.

How fit Hodgson is remains to be seen after he battled an ankle injury in the lead-up.

But when he drifts across field anything can happen.

Matt Moylan v Jack Wighton.

Moylan was superb in the Panthers’ comprehensive elimination final win over Canterbury last weekend and he is the fulcrum of the Panther attack.

However he can be a little suspect under the high ball.

Wighton plays it as tough as anyone and is fantastic in defence and running the ball out of his own end, even if he does not have hands as silky as Moylan’s.

The wet conditions expected in Canberra might prove more to Wighton’s liking and less open to Moylan’s expansive style.

Iosia Soliola v Trent Merrin

After returning from Super League, Soliola has been at the heart of everything for Canberra this year.

Merrin’s move to the Panthers has been no less of a successful.

The former NSW back-rower had arguably his best game for the Panthers in the win over Canterbury last week, while the Raiders struggled as the game went on against the Sharks.

Keeping up their early intensity throughout the game will be crucial for the Raiders and Soliola is key here.

Bryce Cartwright v Joey Leilua

No doubt coach Ricky Stuart will aim Raiders wrecking ball at Cartwright on the visitor’s right edge.

Leilua was down on involvement last week in the loss to Cronulla and that spells bad news for the Panthers.

Cartwright’s defence has been suspect at times this year and if he tries to grab at Leilua’s jumper too often he will find nothing but thin air.

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