Round 22: Titans v Sea Eagles preview
Fading Sea-Eagles' Titanic mission to reach finals
Manly have now lost 3 on the trot and sit 2 wins outside the top 8, with 4 games left. It looks an ominous task for them to reach the finals, however this week they will get their only chance to build some form as they take on the last placed and completely disinterested Titans.
Manly have a horrible run to the finals and will require at least 3 of their final 4 games to remain a chance for finals footy. However they have the 3rd placed Sharks next week, the 9th placed Raiders the following week, who they must beat and then a red-hot Bulldogs side in the final regular season game of the year. It's an ominous task ahead of them.
The Titans 4 point win over the Dragons in Round 10 was their last win. They've since lost 10 straight games, with their opponents reaching at least 30 points in 7 of them. They have a relatively easy run home compared to all the other NRL sides, with all of their final 4 games against teams placed 10th or lower.
But they look like they gave up when winter arrived and spent the bulk of the season planning their spring-break holidays, which they seem to be keen to take a month early. They have been a miserable and depressing outfit to watch for most of the year, given the quality of their pack and amongst their backs.
The Titans end of season record is abysmal and speaks volumes. Since their inception in 2007 they have won 35.14% of all their regular season games from Round 16 onwards. Just 4 of their 16 seasons has seen them win at least half of their remaining games from Round 16. It could be argued that this shows how severely the club gives up when they feel that their season is over.
Manly have won 11 of their last 18 games when sitting outside the top 8 (dating back to Round 5, 2021), which shows their ability to fight and get the results they want when they are struggling.
The Titans will see Erin Clark return to the hooking duties due to the horror injury sustained by Aaron Booth last weekend. Patrick Herbert will start on the wing, pushing Greg Marzhew onto the bench.
Who to watch: Jason Saab is actively seeking outwork and causing headaches when he does. Last week he made a huge 264 metres as well as 4 of Manly's 5 line breaks and 6 of Manly's 18 tackle breaks against a top 8 side. He could well have a field day against this Titans side that look at all …err..coast…in defence.
Manly's middle forwards were strong in a losing performance last weekend, especially Martin Taupau and Toafofa Sipley, who made big post contact metres in the middle. They will be planning to wreak havoc to the Titans defence in the middle of the field.
As for the Titans, big Tino Fa'asuamaleaui was a weapon in attack last week in another poorly performing Titans side. 185 metres including a team best 8 tackle breaks for the game and a mighty 77 post contact metres shows that he is putting in big time. His battle with Taupau is going to be tough.
David Fifita put in solidly defensively but still needs to do a bit more dirty work in attack and take a few more simple hit ups, crash balls etc and try to avoid running sideways too much.
My tip: The Manly attack has gone off the boil somewhat in recent weeks, but it's never seemed to have too much of a problem against the Titans. The Titans have reached 20 points in just 4 of their last 15 games, losing on the last 3 of those occasions. Their defence is a mess and their attack is guesswork.
Manly could well, and will be looking to run their attack into some strong form here. This could get ugly for the Titans. Manly by 34.