Ahead of Friday's #NRL game between Penrith Panthers and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, writer Rob C...
9 hours ago
As a rudderless Warriors try to snap their losing streak, the Titans are keen to kick-start a finals tilt.
What a fascinating clash we have on Sunday across the Tasman. Both these sides have been pretty average to start 2017, with the Warriors' woes continuing after a 14-point defeat to the St George Illawarra Dragons last Sunday. The disruption of off-season recruit Kieran Foran not taking the field last week, withdrawing late due to injury, certainly threw the Warriors into disarray and they have struggled all year to fix the troublesome five-eighth position.
Adding to this was a dreadful completion rate last game where the Auckland-based side completed less than 70% of their sets, a problem they need to rectify if they wants to challenge any team in the NRL. All the pressure has been falling on the shoulders of Shaun Johnson, can he get some much needed support from team mates this weekend?
Gold Coast meanwhile were disappointing in a close defeat to North Queensland last time out, with a couple of late tries adding some respectability to an otherwise unflattering scoreline. The Titans are one of those teams (much like the Warriors) that have a very talented roster but seem unable to get the job done on the footy field. Obviously the loss of Jarryd Hayne has hurt them, but with the likes of Ashley Taylor, Konrad Hurrell and Kevin Proctor there isn't a lack of talent in their starting lineup. If they can replicate their form against Parramatta a fortnight ago, where they made less than ten errors all game, and weren't wasteful with ball in hand... then the Titans may have a fruitful trip across the ditch.
Regardless, this will be an exciting game and don't be surprised to see lots of points scored.
Last meeting: Round 22 2016 - Titans 14 Warriors 24
Look away now Gold Coast fans! The Warriors have completed dominated proceedings between these two clubs, winning 11 of the last 12 matches with the Titans lone win coming at Mt Smart in 2015.
At this ground, the Titans have gone home victorious just three times from nine visits. In 20 overall meetings between the pair, New Zealand hold a 13-7 advantage since the Titans came into the competition in 2007.
Who to watch: The Warriors will be desperate on Sunday and Isaac Luke needs to show that desperation in his play. Luke has had a slow start to the season by his own standards but looked to have turned the corner with an impressive performance against the Dragons where he scored a smart try from dummy-half. Luke needs to take control of this game and dominate the ruck around the play the ball area. As mentioned above, Shaun Johnson needs some help in the attacking department and Luke when at his best is a destructive runner and play maker out of hooker. Look for him to scoot out of dummy half and try and catch the Titans defence napping, displaying his pace and guile as well as his immense strength.
The Titans will be aiming high in this clash and will be hoping from a glorious game from young five-eighth Kane Elgey. The Gold Coast number six has returned from a horrific knee injury to help the Titans to some solid performances so far in 2017. He has a calm head on his shoulders and this has a positive influence on his team mates. His short kicking game (particularly when close to the opposition try line) can help get repeat sets for the Titans as well put them in good field position. With plenty of years ahead of him, Elgey has a positive future with the Titans.
The favourite: With the home ground advantage the Warriors have firmed as favourites.
My tip: The Warriors to bounce back with a string performance at home. Their only win has been at home this year so look for them to fire up for their home fans. Warriors by 12.
1. Roger Tuivasa-sheck 2. Blake Ayshford 3. David Fusitua 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kieran Foran 7. Shaun Johnson 15. James Gavet 9. Issac Luke 10. Jacob Lillyman 11. Bodene Thompson 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Simon Mannering 8. Charlie Gubb 16. Sam Lisone 17. Ligi Sao 22. Ata Hingano
1. Tyrone Roberts 2. Tyrone Roberts-Davis 3. Dale Copley 12. Chris McQueen 5. Daniel Vidot 6. Kane Elgey 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Ryan Simpkins 10. Ryan James 11. Kevin Proctor 17. Joe Greenwood 13. Leivaha Pulu 14. Karl Lawton 15. Nathaniel Peteru 16. Chris Grevsmuhl 18. Max King
Referees: Adam Gee, Gavin Reynolds; Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis, Anthony Elliott; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Luke Patten;