GOLD COAST TITANS V NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS – 4.00PM (NZT)/2.00PM (AEST) SUNDAY, JULY 29 AT CBUS SUPER STADIUM
The Storylines: The Warriors have restored confidence in their ability to make an imprint on the 2018 NRL premiership after a emphatic away win over Brisbane and a plucky, somewhat unlucky home loss to Melbourne. The pressure is on big-time this Sunday for the eighth-placed outfit, though, with Wests Tigers making a move from ninth and the 11-7 Warriors heading into this clash as overwhelming favourites.
The 6-12 Titans have endured a difficult campaign under new coach Garth Brennan and are short on top-line talent in key areas, but they have shocked quality opposition on occasion. The Warriors have been a massive bogey for Gold Coast over the past eight seasons, however, and the fact they are out of top-eight reckoning stacks the odds against the home side.
The hits keep coming for the Warriors in the injury department, with Issac Luke set to miss the game and Tohu Harris’ mooted return delayed another week, while Adam Blair will cool his heels after the judiciary handed down an incredibly harsh one-week suspension for a ‘late’ tackle.
Former Titan Karl Lawton is set to start at hooker, Simon Mannering moves to lock and Leivaha Pulu is in contention to make his first top-grade appearance since a lengthy injury absence in the second-row. On the plus side, Blake Green – who was keenly missed against the Storm – returns from a rib injury. Meanwhile, Sam Lisone gets a surprise recall on the bench at Chris Satae’s expense and will be desperate to impress.
With another away assignment next week against St George Illawarra, this really does shape as must-win for the Warriors. A victory will put them into a share of fourth or fifth; a loss will likely leave them in outright eighth, just two points ahead of the Tigers. It’s a gilt-edged opportunity to prove the club’s customary late-season jitters are a phenomenon of the past.
The History: Played 23 – Warriors won 16, Gold Coast won 7.
-The Warriors have won 14 of their last 15 against the Titans, including the last six straight.
-The Warriors have won their last seven in a row at Cbus Super Stadium; the Titans’ last home win in the rivalry was during the 2010 finals.
-The Warriors have scored 20-plus points in 15 consecutive games against the Titans; the Titans have been held to 16 or less in 10 of those games.
-Eight of the teams’ last 11 games have been decided by 1-12 margins.
-Shaun Johnson has scored 10 tries and 100 points in 14 encounters with the Titans – his highest tallies against any opposition club.
-David Fusitu’a has scored seven tries in just seven games against the Titans.
3 Key Match-ups
Shaun Johnson v Ashley Taylor: Johnson had to shoulder too much of the load last week and he’ll relish the return of Blake Green. He’s been a frequent thorn in the Titans’ side and he’ll be licking his lips at the prospect of toying with the NRL’s second-worst defence. It was difficult to find a negative word said about Ash Taylor during his first two seasons in first grade but patience among fans and pundits is running out for the marquee half, whose form has been up-and-down in a struggling team. Electric on his day – but those days are too rare for a player on his pay-packet.
Agnatius Paasi v Ryan James: Paasi was absolutely devastating on Queensland soil a fortnight ago but was well-handled last week by the Storm. Against a big Titans pack and with a couple of key Warriors forwards missing, Paasi needs a big one. While Gold Coast skipper James hasn’t been at his destructive best all that often in 2018, he is the man the Titans will be expecting to set the tone for their engine-room.
Solomone Kata v Konrad Hurrell: The former Warriors clubmates, 2017 World Cup teammates and fellow centre wrecking balls fit squarely into the enigma category. Kata followed up his best game of the season against the Broncos with a real mixed bag against the Storm, making a couple of defensive howlers and infuriating fans with his reluctance to give Big Ken the ball. Despite scoring a try in Tonga’s recent Test win over Samoa, Hurrell has only just returned to the Titans’ line-up after spending several weeks on InTrust Super Cup duty.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) July 27, 2018
Last Time They Met: The Titans were buried under a Warriors offload frenzy in a 20-8 loss in Auckland in Round 2 of the 2018 season, their sixth straight defeat in the rivalry. David Fusitu’a scored two of the Warriors’ four tries.
The Warriors have covered 7 of 9 away from Mt Smart. The Warriors have covered 6 of 7 day games in Australia. The Warriors have covered five straight when the total is 42.5 or higher. The Titans have covered just 2 of 7 at home after scoring 24+
The Verdict: Few Warriors fans feel super-confident going into any clash – particularly as hot favourites and especially at this time of the season. That’s why (aside from the inherent NRL ladder implications) we’re eager for the Warriors to put the Titans to the sword on Sunday. Though the disruptions to their line-up could prove a bit of a hitch to their recent momentum, the Warriors own this rivalry, have everything to play for and have it all over the Titans in key positions. The warm, dry daytime conditions suit the Warriors down to the ground – as they showed at Suncorp a couple of weeks back – and there’s every reason to expect an entertaining points-fest here against a Titans side that have been generally rubbish in 2018. Warriors by 24