Titans v Rabbitohs preview

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Gold Coast Titans v South Sydney Rabbitohs Friday 7:50pm at Cbus Super Stadium

Fledgling Titans look to skin in-form Rabbitohs

Languishing in the bottom half of the table after managing just four wins over the first half of the year, the Titans will be looking to rejuvenate their season with a big scalp on Friday night. Demonstrating signs of immense promise at times, the talent shown during the side's hard-fought victories has often been subsided by efforts that fail to do justice to the ability of a squad brimming with quality players. Banking on the availability of Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace to back up 48 hours after the State of Origin series opener, coach Garth Brennan has resisted the urge to make large scale changes from the side that went down in Gosford a fortnight ago, however should the Queensland duo fail to back up expect to see maligned recruit Bryce Cartwright come into the final 17. In what has become resultant of the club's middling form and commercial-driven apathy from broadcasters, Friday night will serve as the only prime time match the Titans have been scheduled to host this year; a trend that dates back to 2013. While their Queensland capital rivals are regularly afforded over 50% of matches on Free-to-Air television, the rare occurrence of the same event on the Gold Coast should serve as a motivator for the battling outfit to put in a strong performance in front of a large audience.

Having made the decision to cut ties with premiership winning mentor Michael Maguire at the end of last season, the Rabbitohs have surpassed all expectations of pundits who at best viewed the 2014 premiers as capable of sneaking into the first week of the play-offs. Well entrenched inside the top four and in the midst of their best winning run since the drought-breaking campaign, rookie coach Anthony Seibold has addressed the forward-dominant game plan that couldn't be sustained in the years after winning the grand final with an expansive style of play that has seen South Sydney rank as the best attacking team in the league. Holding an imposing 60% success rate over the Titans from 15 matches played since 2007, the uncertainty surrounding the fitness of the team's Origin quartet shouldn't have any major baring on Friday's result if last weekend's victory over Cronulla is to be seen as a gauge of their current form, while in an additional boost to the side, fullback Alex Johnston has been named to return from injury. Kicking off a run of four matches against battling opponents on the Gold Coast, the Rabbitohs will have their sights set on extending their five match winning streak and moving towards securing a return to September for the first time in three seasons.

Last meeting: Round 15 2017 - Rabbitohs 36 Titans 20

Who to watch: Bursting onto the rugby league scene as the 2016 rookie of the year, Ashley Taylor has struggled to recapture the form that elevated the Gold Coast into the finals in his first full season in the top grade. With over 50 games of experience to his name, the increased awareness from opposing sides has limited the 23-year-old's potency in attack, yet as he has shown throughout all of the Titans wins in 2018, at his best there are few players in the NRL capable of single-handedly imposing themselves on the outcome of a match. Facing off against a red-hot South Sydney outfit, Friday night will be a massive occasion for the one time Brisbane halfback to assert his class against arguably the in-form side of the competition. Rated as the best emerging playmaker by numerous respected judges, Taylor is more than capable of being the game's best player, but if that promise is to amount to anything it is imperative that he take control against the Rabbitohs.

Bringing up 150 games in the NRL on Friday night, the legacy left by English import Sam Burgess has exceeded any expectation afforded upon the 2014 Clive Churchill Medallist when he initially ventured down under as a 21-year-old eager to test himself against the world's best at the start of the decade. Enshrined in rugby league folklore for his feats in helping South Sydney break their premiership drought, the powerhouse forward has endured a tumultuous season so far with more time on the sidelines than hoped for. Riding the fine line of aggression that has earned him admiration and condemnation from rival supporters, Burgess will be out to enhance his reputation further this season having struggled to recapture the height of his powers after returning from a maligned stint in rugby union. Remaining dominant in his on-field role, but recognising the benefits of allowing the leaner players in the Rabbitohs side to take ownership of matches, expect the former Bradford teenage prodigy to relish the occasion of Friday night with another strong performance.

The favourite: Coming into Friday's clash off the back of five straight wins, the Rabbitohs are overwhelming favourites to account for a Titans side that has managed just one win from their past seven matches.

My tip: Having shown their credentials to dominate the high-flying Sharks last week, the possible omissions of the Rabbitohs four Origin representatives should have little baring on a side set to feature prominently at the business end of 2018. Rabbitohs by 16.

1. Michael Gordon 2. Anthony Don 3. Dale Copley 4. Brenko Lee 5. Phillip Sami 6. Aj Brimson 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Ryan James 17. Keegan Hipgrave 12. Kevin Proctor 13. Jai Arrow 14. Mitch Rein 15. Max King 16. Moeaki Fotuaika 18. Jack Stockwell

1. Alex Johnston 2. Campbell Graham 14. Adam Doueihi 19. Hymel Hunt 5. Robert Jennings 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 18. Robbie Farah 10. George Burgess 11. John Sutton 15. Cameron Murray 13. Sam Burgess 16. Jason Clark 17. Tevita Tatola 20. Mark Nicholls 21. Tyrell Fuimaono

Referees: Grant Atkins, Phil Henderson; Sideline Officials: Michael Wise, Belinda Sleeman; Video Referees: Luke Patten, Ben Cummins;

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