2 days ago
Titans v Dragons preview - 2017 Round 17
Passing ships meet at Cbus Super Stadium
Although these two teams are last start winners, the pair seem to be on very different trajectories going into the back half of the season.
Let's start with the Red V. Predicted by many to be propping up the table with the Knights for much of 2017, the Dragons stunned the competition early, at one point topping the table before Melbourne's vice-like grip descended on the Premiership. The bye before Origin I couldn't have come at a worse time - their form since the week off back in late May has been patchy at best, recording narrow wins over the sides at the bottom of the table in the Tigers and Knights, and losing to both Canterbury and Parramatta over an indifferent month of footy.
The Titans seem to be headed in a different direction. Finally righting their playing roster after an injury-plagued first half of the season, they played some good footy in last week's comfortable victory over last-placed Wests Tigers and showed some steely resolve back in May when they accounted for competition leaders Melbourne.
Struggling to field a consistent lineup, the Titans are edging back towards full strength with Tyrone Roberts and Chris McQueen both declared available on Tuesday when the squads were named. The Dragons meanwhile have lost key off-season signing Paul Vaughan to a calf strain for four weeks, but welcome back Jack de Belin and Euan Aitken to bolster their defence and attack.
Last meeting: Round 19 2016 - Dragons 12 Titans 32
Ten years in the competition and the Titans are back to where it all began - hosting the Dragons. They lost that opening fixture at Suncorp Stadium in 2007 by just two points but it's been the Red V who've dominated the balance of contests between the pair, with 11 of 17 matches going the way of Friday's visiting team. Of those contests, 8 matches have been played at Robina with the Dragons victorious on five occasions.
Who to watch: After a lacklustre performance in Origin II for New South Wales, Jarryd Hayne redeemed himself at club level two days later when he helped guide the 'sea and sand' to a sound win over the Wests Tigers in his home town of Campbelltown. Settling in at fullback, his influence and work together with halves Roberts and Taylor will be telltale if the Titans are to revive their flagging season.
The Dragons front row pairing of Russell Packer and Leeson Ah Mau have to seize the opportunity to carry their side forward on Friday night. The absence of Paul Vaughan is a big gap to fill, but with both players having played every match this season they know what's expected of them to ensure Widdop and Dugan's magic can deliver a Red V victory.
The favourite: These two can't be split. The Titans home ground advantage has them receiving plenty of support but the Dragons' ladder position balances that out. By kickoff that could even tip in the Titans favour if the money keeps flowing for the hosts.
My tip: There's too much at stake here for the Dragons not to win. The Titans have been admirable but the Red V's bounceback after falling asleep at the wheel against Newcastle last week shows that they know what it takes to not only score points, but win the critical matches. It's Dragons by 6.
1. Jarryd Hayne 2. Anthony Don 3. Dale Copley 4. Konrad Hurrell 5. William Zillman 6. Tyrone Roberts 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Ryan James 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Joe Greenwood 16. Max King 14. Pat Politoni 15. Morgan Boyle 16. Nathaniel Peteru 17. Agnatius Paasi
1. Josh Dugan 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Kurt Mann 8. Russell Packer 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Joel Thompson 13. Jack de Belin 14. Tariq Sims 15. Blake Lawrie 16. Hame Sele 17. Josh McCrone
Referees: Grant Atkins, Chris Sutton; Sideline Officials: Ricky MacFarlane, Clayton Sharpe; Video Referees: Luke Patten, Jared Maxwell;