The Late Mail: Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles
3 hours ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Titans on a finals surge as Payten rings the changes for out of contention Cowboys.
On the back of three wins from their last four games including a dominant victory over the Bulldogs on Monday night, the Gold Coast Titans have moved into the top eight for the first time since round 11.
Locked in a battle with the Raiders, Sharks, Knights and Dragons for the final two positions in the eight, Coach Justin Holbrook's men look in a strong position sitting 7th with the strongest points differential out of the five teams.
Welcoming back Patrick Herbert from suspension, the former Warrior takes the place of Esan Marsters at right centre, whilst Erin Clark will make his return from injury via the interchange in place of Tyrone Peachey who entered an early guilty plea for a dangerous conduct charge and will sit this one out.
The only other change sees David Fifita named to start in the second-row with Beau Fermor on the bench although the two have switched roles an hour before kick-off the last two weeks which has proven a winning formula thus far.
Although still just two wins out of the eight, the Cowboys chances of playing finals in 2021 have seemingly slipped through their grasp after they slumped to a seventh straight loss at the hands of the Broncos last Friday night.
That has likely prompted Coach Todd Payten to make a raft of changes as he continues to experiment with his line-up and work out how to get the best out of his underperforming side.
In positive news, Maroons representative Valentine Holmes will make his return from a shoulder injury suffered in Origin three in place of Jake Granville who played a surprise role at fullback over the last two weeks.
A season ending injury to rookie winger Kane Bradley sees Murray Taulagi pushed back out onto the flank with Ben Hampton coming into the centres. Tom Gilbert has been promoted to the front-row with Maroons forward Francis Molo dropped to the reserves and a new look back-row sees Jason Taumalolo and Heilum Luki on the edges with Coen Hess at lock. Finally, a completely revamped interchange will be formed by Mitchell Dunn, Ben Condon, Lachlan Burr and Granville.
Last meeting: Round 3 2021 - Cowboys 8 Titans 44
Who to watch: After struggling through the Origin period whilst carrying a knee injury, livewire fullback Alexander Brimson has seemingly returned to full fitness in recent weeks and has been a key figure in the Titans recent run of good form. Running for an average 178 metres over the past four weeks, the Queenslander's blistering speed and footwork is causing plenty of headaches for opposition defenders. Not crossing the try line since round 11, look for Brimson to get across this weekend against the Cowboys having scored doubles in his last two games against Sunday's opposition.
In a mouth-watering individual battle, the returning Valentine Holmes will look to provide some much needed attacking spark for the Cowboys. Seemingly nailing down the number one jersey before injury halted his progress, Holmes was averaging 178 metres and just shy of four tackle busts per game this season whilst continuing to strengthen his ball-playing with six try-assists. With just five games left in the Cowboys season, look for the Maroons ace to have a strong block of games in order to nail down the custodian role heading into next year.
The favourite: The Titans are considered strong favourites to down their Queensland rivals.
My tip: With Payten declaring the Cowboys finals ambitions all but dead and buried following their loss to the Broncos, that leaves little more than pride for the North Queenslanders to play for. That won't be enough against a Titans side looking to rack up a big win and further stake their claims for finals footy. Looking for Brimson to get across the line more than once at nice odds in a dominant victory. Gold Coast by 26.
1. Alexander Brimson 2. Greg Marzhew 3. Brian Kelly 4. Patrick Herbert 5. Corey Thompson 6. Ashley Taylor 7. Toby Sexton 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Mitch Rein 10. Moeaki Fotuaika 11. Kevin Proctor 16. Beau Fermor 13. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui 12. David Fifita 14. Erin Clark 15. Sam Lisone 17. Jaimin Jolliffe 18. Esan Marsters
1. Valentine Holmes 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Connelly Lemuelu 4. Ben Hampton 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Tom Dearden 8. Tom Gilbert 9. Reece Robson 10. Jordan McLean 11. Jason Taumalolo 12. Heilum Luki 13. Coen Hess 14. Mitchell Dunn 15. Ben Condon 16. Lachlan Burr 17. Jake Granville 19. Daejarn Asi
Referees: Ben Cummins; Sideline Officials: Jon Stone, Liam Kennedy; Video Referees: Alan Shortall;