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Titans v Knights preview

Greg Prichard, NRL.com Wed, Apr 24, 2013 - 7:00 PM
Titans v Knights
Skilled Park
Sunday, 2pm

The Titans and Knights have both made solid starts to the season, with four wins and two losses apiece. The Titans have won three of their four home games, beating the Raiders, Sea Eagles and Eels and losing to the Broncos. The loss to the Broncos is the only real blot on their copybook so far – they were whipped, 32-12. Their other loss was a narrow one on the road against the Sharks.

The Knights have a 100 per cent winning record at home, where they have beaten the Wests Tigers, Raiders, Cowboys and Panthers, but have a zero record on the road. They have lost to the Sea Eagles and Dragons in their only two away games, but were much more competitive in the second of those games after the Sea Eagles blitzed them.

The challenge is there for the Knights to start winning their fair share of away games if they want to make the finals. It's okay to have a good home record, but constantly losing away from home just puts more pressure on you to win the home games and that can bring teams undone. Still, the Titans were a bit lucky to beat the Eels at home in their most recent game. The Knights have a chance here.

There are a lot of changes to both sides from their most recent outings. Luke O'Dwyer and Jamal Idris go from the back row back to the centres for the Titans, while Ashley Harrison goes from hooker to his normal lock spot. Mark Minichiello will start in the second row, promoted from the bench. Aidan Sezer is back at five-eighth, replacing Beau Henry, and Matt Srama is back at hooker. Steve Michaels has dropped from the centres to a five-man bench. Centre David Mead is out, and Sam Irwin is gone from the bench. Back-up hooker Beau Falloon returns to the bench. 

For the Knights, Dane Gagai returns to the centres, replacing BJ Leilua. Lock Jeremy Smith is suspended, so Chris Houston has dropped back from second row to lock and Alex McKinnon will start in the second row. Neville Costigan and Korbin Sims have joined the bench.

Watch Out Titans: Here's a trio of danger men for you, in the Knights' backline: Akuila Uate, who has run for a total of 310 metres in his past two games, and scored seven tries this season. Darius Boyd, 298 metres and two line-breaks in his past two games. Dane Gagai, 153 metres and two tries in his only full game this season, against the Wests Tigers.

Watch Out Knights: Titans second-rower Greg Bird has run for more than 100 metres in each of the six games he has played this season, and in his most recent game – against the Eels – he recorded a double century, running for 202. He also made two offloads (taking his tally to 14 for the season, the fourth most by any player). Bird is in great form, in attack and defence. He just keeps trying to make things happen. More often than not, they do.

Plays To Watch: Knights winger James McManus is a great target man for his halves, because of his ability to jump very high and safely bring the ball down for tries off kicks. He has made a line-break in each of his past two games as well, and has scored four tries this season. 

Titans No.1 William Zillman has looked great out of the backfield at times this season, and has five line-breaks to his name. He just needs to become more consistent.

Key Match-Up: We all know what Kurt Gidley can do from hooker – or several other positions – for the Knights, but what about Titans hooker Matt Srama? He has come up with four line-breaks, two offloads and two tries in his five games this season.

Where It Will Be Won: The halves will have a lot to do with it, particularly because of the dynamic nature of the Titans pair, Aidan Sezer and Albert Kelly. The Knights are going to have to work hard to limit Kelly's opportunities, because he is one of those players who can suddenly explode into action. He has four tries, one line-break and five offloads so far this season.

The History: Played 9; Knights 5, Titans 4. The Titans won the last time they met, securing a 24-14 win at Hunter Stadium in Round 12 last season.

Match Officials: Referees – Jared Maxwell & Luke Phillips; Sideline Officials – Jason Walsh & Peter Gough. Video Referees – Ashley Klein & Grant Atkins.

Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live, 2pm.

The Way We See It: There is no doubting the Knights are capable of winning this, but it's hard to put your full trust in them on the road at the moment. It is likely to be close, but at home the Titans should be able to exercise a critical advantage. Titans by four points.