Round 8: Titans v Sharks preview
It was a rare 80-minute performance from the Titans to beat the Broncos in Brisbane, with the 30-12 margin going down as the biggest victory for the Gold Coast over their south-east Queensland rival.
Moeaki Fotuaika matched it with Payne Haas, Ash Taylor took the Titans to an early lead, Anthony Don scored two tries to remind everyone he's a quality winger and Jai Arrow was yet again one of their best.
We'll find out if the Titans are content with that effort or if consistently performing to that standard is what they're passionate about.
The Sharks are in some hot point-scoring form of their own after putting 40 on the Manly Sea Eagles, and this Saturday afternoon fixture promises an emphasis on expansive attacking footy.
Holding an 18-6 advantage against the depleted Sea Eagles at halftime, Cronulla mentally committed to go on with the job in the second half by taking the game out to a 34-6 advantage by the 55th minute.
Shaun Johnson and Sione Katoa are in some serious form. Johnson has shown maturity to be able to mess with a defence without the explosiveness he had with the Warriors. He leads the NRL in try assists and is running the football a lot to also be first in the NRL for line engagements. Katoa's scored five tries in his last two games.
This might finally be the week Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook is able to play Tyrone Roberts for the first time since round two. Roberts played an 11 v 11 game against Broncos fringe players on Saturday before the main game.
It would be hard to change a winning side though, and playing as a utility might be Roberts' best role for now to regain match fitness and allow Corey Thompson to build chemistry with his new team.
In the only change to the Sharks' team list from their 40-22 win over Manly, Braden Hamlin-Uele is relegated to the bench with Andrew Fifita to start. However, in the last two weeks Cronulla coach John Morris has flipped these two an hour before kickoff. The Sharks are on track to play the same 17 for the third consecutive round.
It was a quality fightback from Cronulla as they lost Andrew Fifita and Matt Prior to injury in the first half and trailed 18-10 to begin the second half. All of Cronulla's point scorers on the day are no longer with the club (Josh Morris two tries, Aaron Gray two tries, Paul Gallen one try and one conversion, Kyle Flannagan one conversion and penalty goal).
Who to watch: The steadying influence of Jamal Fogarty might have been the final piece to free up Ash Taylor to focus on his own attack. Against the Broncos Fogarty looked after a lot of the general play duties as a half, and once the Titans got within good attacking field position it was Taylor that took the line on and generated goal-line dropouts. While Fogarty hasn't come up with much individual brilliance, there's no doubt Holbrook would be pleased with how this inexperienced NRL halfback has helped the team.
Matt Moylan is once again starting to warm to the task of being a quality fullback for the Sharks. In the three games he's played 68 minutes or more this season (the last two from fullback), Cronulla has won all three games. He recorded two try assists last week and another solid performance against the Titans would have him primed for the round nine clash with his old team, the Penrith Panthers.
The favourite: The Sharks come in as the clear favourite. Despite Cronulla on the season scoring 50 more points and conceding 45 less points than the Titans, they're only separated by one win on the ladder.
My tip: There appears to be some fool's gold in the form of these two teams because of the opposition they've faced. While some credit goes to the Gold Coast for their lopsided win over the Broncos, there's no denying Brisbane is very beatable by any NRL team at present and a week prior the Titans lost 20-8 to the Dragons. Likewise, the Sharks beat a battered Sea Eagles side and two weeks ago they squeaked out a 20-18 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs. Cronulla having their side intact for three straight weeks could be the difference in what should be a high scoring match. Sharks by 14.