Roosters v Titans Preview

Roosters v Titans
Bluetongue Stadium
Saturday 5.30pm

If they weren’t already desperate, now the Roosters really have something to play for. They are stone motherless last on the bottom of the NRL ladder and will be keen to rid themselves of wooden spoon reckoning, even if it’s only Round 14.

It won’t be easy though – they’re up against the table-topping Titans, who turned out one of the performances of the year against St George Illawarra last Monday.

The Gold Coast might be leading the competition, but that doesn’t necessarily mean certain victory over the cellar-dwelling Chooks; John Cartwright’s men may have improved their away record in 2009, but that doesn’t mean the monkey is totally off the back.

The Roosters showed some genuine fight against Manly last week and just like the Sharks have put back-to-back wins together, you’d like to think the victory song might be sung in Bondi Junction in the not too distant future.

A statistic the Titans don’t have to overcome, however, is the hoodoo that is usually associated with winning the week after playing a Monday night game.

So far this year the Raiders, Bulldogs, Wests Tigers, Storm and the Panthers on two occasions have won at the start of the working week and have then been victorious the next week as well.

Watch out Roosters:
There are so many points of attack for this Gold Coast team but don’t bother looking past Luke Bailey up front. At one stage last week they thought he’d broken his arm against the Dragons and he was whisked off to hospital. X-rays at nearby Robina Hospital cleared him and he was back on the field before the end of the game, to help his team hold on for a memorable win.

The Roosters have been embarrassingly thin in the forwards this year and if they don’t muscle up to the “Bull” they might as well give up the ghost.

The NSW Origin prop averages 141 metres this season and there are few better in the competition at getting their team over the advantage line. He also averages just under 18 runs per game, which puts him in the top echelon of front-rowers for involvement, alongside Petero Civoniceva and Steven Price.

Watch out Titans: Setaimata Sa is the danger for the Titans. Capable in so many positions, but at the moment making a go of it at right centre, Sa will be looking to create havoc out wide.

Last week against Manly he scored one of the most skilful tries we’ve seen this year – starting off with a brilliant around-the-corner offload to Craig Fitzgibbon. On the next play Sa got the ball 30 metres out from the Manly line, showed great hands to draw and pass defenders and get the ball to his winger Sonny Tuigamala, before getting himself back into position to receive the ball off Tuigamala and dive over in the corner.

The Titan who will be marking up against him on Saturday night is Brett Delaney, who sits in fourth for the most missed tackles by any centre in the NRL with 27. Delaney will want to be sure on his feet otherwise Sa will turn him inside out.

Where it will be won: Quite simply, the Roosters will have to win this one in the forwards.

The Gold Coast know they will receive excellent service from their big men – Luke Bailey, Anthony Laffranchi, Brad Meyers and Ashley Harrison are all players with plenty of representative experience. But the thing is, the Sydneysiders aren’t short of rep caps themselves. Mark O’Meley, Willie Mason, Craig Fitzgibbon and Nate Myles have all played at the highest level while Lopini Paea was World Cup captain for Tonga last year.

The difference is the Titans’ pack looks good on paper and on the field, whereas the Roosters’ stars aren’t rising to the challenge.
 
O’Meley and Paea average a poultry 75 and 74 metres per game respectively – not providing the go-forward required. The previously barnstorming Mason has broken the line just twice this year and Fitzgibbon’s monster workload is also down.

On the other hand, the Titans’ red-headed Meyers is quickly reclaiming his best form – he scored two tries last week and finished close to best on ground. And Laffranchi is second in the NRL for most runs and is in the top 10 for most offloads by a second-rower – giving the Titans an extra dimension from their men in the middle.
 
Then there’s little Nathan Friend in the no.9, who typically has made more tackles than any other hooker in the NRL.

There’s not a weakness to be found amongst the Gold Coast’s big men and this should translate to another win for the boys from the Sunshine strip. Scott Prince, Preston Campbell and Matt Rogers will work off the back of their forwards and will have too many points in them for the battling Roosters.

The History: In Round 18 last year, the shoe was on the other foot. The Titans were struck with injuries and in a rut, while the Roosters were the team well on their way to finals glory. At the SFS, the Titans with a team of rookies, won 32-28 – and it was what started a late-season rot for Brad Fittler’s team.

The two sides have played three times, with the Titans winning two matches to the Roosters one. They are yet to meet at Gosford’s Bluetongue Stadium.

Conclusion: The Gold Coast need to be careful not to take this one for granted – because the Roosters have too many quality players in their line-up to remain easy-beats for too much longer.

Expect a resurgent Roosters effort – but the Titans are the genuine article this year and should outclass their hapless opponents. Certainly if the Gold Coast are fair dinkum about making the top eight for the first time in their history, they will win this match and keep in touch with the table leaders.

Match Officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Alan Shortall; Sideline Officials – Russell Turner and Adam Reid; Video Ref – Russell Smith.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 5.30pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats.