Round 19: Bulldogs v Titans preview
A must-win contest of a different kind
Sitting two points clear of wooden spoon territory with a for-and-against differential superior to their closest rivals, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be determined to keep the points flowing on home soil.
Holding a six-point lead before conceding three tries in the final ten minutes to go down 36-28 to South Sydney last Sunday, the Bulldogs have improved considerably in attack following the appointment of Mick Potter as interim coach two months ago.
Averaging a touch over four tries in their past seven matches after managing less than two per game during the first ten rounds, the Bulldogs have named an unchanged line-up, including Josh Addo-Carr, who was initially feared to be sidelined for the remained of 2022 with an ankle injury.
Staring down the prospect of a third wooden spoon in 16 seasons as a top flight team, the Gold Coast Titans will be hoping the strides made last week culminate in a rarely sighted victory away for home.
Narrowly going down to crosstown rivals Brisbane in a contentious 16-12 tussle at home, the Titans have won only one of their past 13 matches and last tasted victory outside of Queensland in July last season.
Winning four of their past five matches against the Bulldogs, coach Justin Holbrook has recalled captain Tino Fa'asuamaleaui to the starting side with Jayden Campbell named on the bench for his first appearance in six weeks.
Who to watch: Finding his feet at Belmore after a slow start to the season, Matt Burton will be out to settle a personal score with a team victory on Sunday afternoon. Coming into contact with Queensland forward Tino Fa'asuamaleaui during a fiery scuffle during the deciding State of Origin encounter, the 22-year-old New South Wales rookie will be focussed on letting his football do the talking when the pair face off at club level. Producing 11 try assists, 11 line-break assists and 16 forced drop outs in his first season as a fulltime NRL five-eighth, Sunday will see Burton bring up his 50th appearance in first grade.
Biding his time in the Queensland state league for the first two-thirds of the season, late bloomer Aaron Booth made an immediate impression in his club debut last weekend. Producing 42 tackles and forcing a line drop out in 60 minutes of action against the Broncos, the 26-year-old hooker will be aiming to hold down the number nine jersey and earn a new deal beyond this season. Making six appearances over two years with the Storm before heading north in pursuit of regular game time, look for Booth to make a case to be the side's long-term hooker over the final seven rounds.
My tip: While both teams showed plenty of promise, despite suffering defeats, last weekend, the Bulldogs renewed attacking flair coupled with the Titans inability to perform on the road should result in a clear cut outcome. Bulldogs by 16.