Raiders one win away from making Rainforest Cup playoffs


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Dynamic Reef Raiders eighthman Francisco Panessi (with the ball) will be sorely missed in the match against Brothers this Saturday. Image: Joanne Cowe.

The Reef Raiders rugby union team is a game away from making the play-offs in the FNQ Rainforest Cup and tomorrow’s match against Cairns Brothers at Stan Williams Park is a must-win for the Port Douglas team.

The Raiders are currently sitting in fourth spot on the league table with 35 points, five points ahead of Brothers who are in fifth spot.

And for the Raiders to qualify for the play-offs, they need to emulate their first round performance when they defeated Brothers 17-12 at the sporting complex.

Although they will welcome back fullback Ethan Hoffman, who is returning after serving a four-week suspension, they will miss dynamic eighthman Francisco Panessi, who left the field in the 25th minute of the second half with a rib injury in last week’s 22-19 loss to the Crusaders.

Panessi has been a dynamo in the loose and tight loose. His incredible and tireless work rate, his ability to link with both backs and forwards will be sorely missed tomorrow. Matt Mallard will move to no 8.

With the exception of Panessi and the return of Hoffman, Raiders coach Travis Gooch said he is fielding the same team that played against Crusaders.

“I know this is going to be a challenging match as there is a lot on the line for both teams. We are not taking them lightly.

“But we need to get the job done and secure a play-off spot. This is therefore a crucial match for us,” said Gooch.

The Raiders are back at home next Saturday when they host JCU, who beat them 36-7 in the opening round.

The two semi-final play-offs will be contested on 20 and 27 July with the final on 3 August.

Meanwhile, right wing Chase Hay, who scored a record five tries in the Raiders’ 37-12 win over Penrhyn Sharks, is among the Top 10 point scorers with 30 points, from six tries. 

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