Roosters v Titans
Roosters coach Trent Robinson did warn before last Monday's game against the Sharks that his team had been a bit up-and-down in recent weeks. He was referring to a poor first half against the Tigers and a disjointed performance against the Raiders. The Roosters still won both of those games, and had won eight in a row going into the game against the Sharks, but they were ambushed at Remondis Stadium and before they knew it they were way behind on the scoreboard.
It got to 26-0 at halftime, and even though the Roosters fought back after the break the Sharks went on to win, 32-22. It was a very physical performance from the Sharks, and it won't hurt the Roosters to lose that game as long as they learn from it. They didn't start matching the Sharks physically until it was too late.
The Titans are one of six teams fighting it out for the last two spots in the finals. Five of those teams – including the ninth-placed Titans – are on 24 points, just one point behind the seventh-placed Knights. It's anybody's guess which teams are going to get there, and that certainly makes it interesting. The Titans have been up and down this season, and after four straight losses they were in all sorts of trouble. Then they recorded back-to-back wins over the Tigers (36-6) and Bulldogs (26-16) to put themselves in a good position, only to falter again with losses in their past two games to the Cowboys (22-10) and Warriors (24-22).
The Roosters remain atop the pile on 38 competition points, and with a sensational points for-and-against differential of plus-311. After the loss to the Sharks they will be very keen to regain the ascendancy here and set themselves up for a massive showdown in the final round against the Rabbitohs that is likely to decide the minor premiership. The Roosters have not lost two in a row all season, and they get vastly-experienced fullback Anthony Minichiello back from injury for this game.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck moves from fullback back to his normal wing spot for the Roosters, making way for Minichiello. Shaun Kenny-Dowall goes from wing to centre, replacing Samisoni Langi. The rest of the team is unchanged.
The Titans have lost lock Ashley Harrison. Nate Myles moves from prop to take his spot, and Luke Douglas rises from the bench to start at prop. Greg Bird returns for the Titans, in the second row, where Mark Minichiello is out. Luke Bailey returns on the bench, where the Titans still have one player to add.
Watch Out Roosters: Halfback Albert Kelly did not do anything stunning against the Warriors in his first game back after several games out injured for the Titans, but he's one of those brilliant players who is capable of cutting loose at any time, and with nine line-breaks and 11 tries to his credit this season he's one the Roosters have to watch closely.
Watch Out Titans: Sonny Bill Williams was the Roosters' best player in the loss to the Sharks. The physicality of the game didn't worry him. Nothing worries him. It was a difficult game for him to get into, given that the Sharks dominated the Roosters in the first half, but all the while he was still whacking away and looking dangerous. He was instrumental in the Roosters' fightback, making some key offloads, and if the Titans don't wrap him up in the tackles he will cause them untold grief.
Plays To Watch: Roosters centre Michael Jennings understands his halves, Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney. He has scored 17 tries this season, including five in his past three games. Jennings is timing his runs to perfection and capitalising on good ball from his halves.
Titans winger Kevin Gordon is a bit of a cult figure with his Samurai-like haircut, but he's also a damn good player. Gordon, who has four tries in his past three games, is very strong, and he loves to get in there at dummy-half down his own end and try to barrel his way downfield. Opposition defences have often been too slow to block his way, resulting in the Titans getting some good attacks going as a result.
Key Match-Up: The fullbacks’ contributions will be crucial. Tuivasa-Sheck did OK filling in at fullback for the Roosters while Minichiello was out injured, but he is still a developing player and they will be much better off with ‘Mini’ back and Tuivasa-Sheck returning to the wing. David Mead, normally a winger, is filling in for the injured William Zillman at fullback for the Titans, and he ran for 173 metres in the loss to the Warriors. The Roosters will put Mead under a lot of pressure though, and he has to handle that and return the kicks to decent positions so the Titans have some chance against the Roosters' top-ranking defence.
Where It Will Be Won: The Roosters will be out to rock and roll in the forwards, and if the Titans can't at least match them there, they will be headed for automatic defeat. It wasn't that the Roosters were overawed in the forward battle against the Sharks, they just got engulfed early and took a while to force their way into the contest, but it will no doubt fire them up for a big performance here.
The History: Played 10; Titans, six, Roosters four. The Roosters have won two of the past four clashes overall, but the Titans have won the past four at this venue.
Match Officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Gavin Morris; Sideline Officials – Grant Atkins & Jason Walsh; Video Referees – Jason Robinson & Justin Morgan.
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Televised: Channel Nine –Delayed, 4pm.
The Way We See It: The Roosters are going to perform in this one. The loss to the Sharks would have highlighted a few things that were wrong with their game, and they would be concentrating on working on those this week. It will be like the season starting again for them, and they will be very keen to get out there and get their act together again. The Titans are desperate, and they may hang tough for a while, but the Roosters will eventually power their way to victory. Roosters by 16 points.
* Statistics: NRL Stats.