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Wests Tigers v Titans preview - 2017 Round 16
Cellar dwellars face off to get off the bottom of NRL ladder
Delivering a much-improved performance only to have their hearts broken by the reigning premiers, the Wests Tigers return home for the first Friday night fixture at Campbelltown Stadium since 2011 in what shapes as a must-win game. Conceding two tries in the final ten minutes to undo the seemingly match-winning lead established over the understrength Sharks, coach Ivan Cleary will be stressing the importance of coming away with two competition points in order to put distance between themselves and the likes of Newcastle and their Round 16 opponents. Naming NSW representatives James Tedesco and Aaron Woods to back up 48 hours after Wednesday's second Origin fixture, the Tigers will be hopeful about the duo's fitness, however Malakai Watene-Zelezniak and mid-week purchase Alex Twal will be ready to step up if called upon. In other selection news, Tim Grant is out through suspension which allows impressive rookie Matthew Eisenhuth to retain his place on the bench, while Jacob Liddle will start for the first time in his career in a switch that sees Matt McIlwrick move to the reserves in the same week he penned a two-year extension with the club.
Charging out of the gates in what shaped as one of the great wins in the clubs history, injuries and defensive deficiencies proved costly for the Titans as they were unable to repel a dominant Rabbitohs outfit in the second half of last week's 36-20 loss. Boosted by the inclusion of three Origin representatives and two experienced campaigners in Anthony Don and Tyrone Roberts, the Titans will fancy their chances of claiming just their fourth win of the season against a Tigers outfit currently in the midst of a six match losing run. In a season that has seen the Titans use the most players of any club to date (31), the performances of rookie props Max King and Morgan Boyle are deserving of recognition. Making their first grade debuts in 2017, the pair have been shining lights with their workrates and ability to play extended minutes. Coming away with two points in the past three encounters with the Tigers, coach Neil Henry will be hoping his side can break a 2-2 deadlock at Campbelltown Stadium.
Last meeting: Round 23 2016 - Wests Tigers 18 Titans 19
Who to watch: Celebrating a century of first grade matches last weekend, departing front rower Ava Seumanufagai produced one of his career best performances against his future employers. While the 26-year-old would rather forget the opening exchanges of the 24-22 loss, in defence and with the ball in hand Seumanufagai demonstrated that with increased responsibility he is more than capable of stepping up. Facing off against an injury depleted Titans side, the established prop will relish the chance to lead from the front and help the joint venture work their way off the bottom of the NRL ladder, while also enhancing his case of pressing for New Zealand selection in the upcoming World Cup.
In a disappointing loss last Friday night, few Titans players felt the frustration of Konrad Hurrell. Running for a season high 182 metres, the former Warriors was fuelled by the desire to win and let his feelings be known in a sign the passion is well and truly alive in the man dubbed the ‘Hurrellicane'. Producing his most consistent season since debuting in first grade five years ago, the 25-year-old Tongan centre will relish his personal confrontation with Tigers rookie Moses Suli, while aiming to reduce the mistakes that act as a byproduct of his intense enthusiasm. On-contract for a further two seasons on the Gold Coast, Hurrell will need to be at his best if the Titans are to break a four game losing run.
The favourite: With a host of regulars set for inclusion, the Titans are expected to extend the Tigers misery.
My tip: Narrow defeats can often be the catalyst for wins; based off the Tigers showing against Cronulla and with the inclusions of Tedesco and Woods, the home side should be smiling at the end of 80 minutes. Tigers by 12.
5. Kevin Naiqama 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Esan Marsters 4. Moses Suli 18. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 6. Tuimoala Lolohea 7. Luke Brooks 8. Aaron Woods 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Ava Seumanufagai 11. Sauaso Sue 12. Kyle Lovett 13. Elijah Taylor 14. Matthew Eisenhuth 15. Jj Felise 16. Michael Chee-Kam 17. Matt McIlwrick
1. Jarryd Hayne 2. Anthony Don 3. Dale Copley 4. Konrad Hurrell 5. William Zillman 21. Jamal Fogarty 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Ryan James 11. Kevin Proctor 17. Joe Greenwood 13. Max King 14. John Olive 15. Pat Politoni 16. Morgan Boyle 20. Agnatius Paasi
Referees: Gavin Badger, Jon Stone; Sideline Officials: Tim Roby, Ricky MacFarlane; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Bryan Norrie;