Titans v Raiders Preview

Titans v Raiders
Skilled Park
Saturday 8.30pm (Qld time)

Can the Gold Coast remain undefeated, or will the Raiders make it two Queensland scalps in succession?

Most would answer in the Titans’ favour as they gear up to take on Canberra, but one thing about the Raiders is their unpredictability – they can knock you off a pedestal if you’re not careful.

Sure, the Titans are near unbeatable at home and will take deserved favouritism into this match but Canberra will fancy themselves against a side whose two wins are masking obvious inadequacies.

A late home win against the Warriors and a golden point win over the Rabbitohs is hardly form to write home about; the Titans will need to show improvement to keep the win column growing while the loss column contains a duck egg.

They welcome back Preston Campbell at fullback with William Zillman moving to the bench against his former club and Riley Brown missing out.

The Raiders come off a gritty 22-14 win against the Broncos, a result that lifted them from last to 12th on the ladder.

They have kept the same side for the match with the only change being David Shillington named to start for Dane Tilse after they reversed roles last Monday night.

Shaun Fensom, the young tyro second-rower has escaped suspension with an early guilty plea and will keep his place in the side.

Watch out Titans: The Raiders are sending most of their traffic to the right side in attack, so the Gold Coast’s left-side defenders better be on their games.
 
Six of Canberra’s seven tries scored so far this season have been on the right side of the field and the Titans have conceded four of six tries in the same area. This will be enough of an invitation for David Furner to spend the week fine-tuning his side’s plays with a focus on the right edges.

Look for the edge-running Green Machine forwards to target the fringes on the right before getting a quick-play-the-ball to hit the ‘keep going’ into the corners.

They may also opt for the ‘double shift’ – that is, send the ball far left before turning around and going far right in successive tackles to have the defenders scrambling.

Watch out Raiders:
The Titans plan to launch a bombing raid should they not breach the line before the last tackle.

In the opening two matches Canberra has only successfully defused one of eight bombs launched against them, for a dismal 14 per cent success rate. With a young and inexperienced back three, the Raiders are subject to targeting and both Scott Prince and Greg Bird have the ability to hoof the ball quite high.

Preston Campbell also has an impressive bomb in his bag of tricks. Sound the air raid alarm!

Where it will be won:
Possession. There is no way the Raiders will be given the luxury afforded them by Brisbane last Monday. The Broncos had 59 per cent of the ball in the match but still found a way to lose.

If Prince and co are given the same amount of time with the ball, it will be good night nurse!

A 53 per cent completion rate this week will likely turn into a 20-point loss, so error-free football is called for.

So far in 2010 the Raiders have 31 errors while the Titans are only slightly better with 28 errors. Both coaches will be stressing the basic philosophy of completions and building pressure. It’s a ploy that has worked for the Melbourne Storm for four years and the Dragons are backing up last year’s minimal-error season with another – with great early success.

The Raiders will look to target the likes of Luke Bailey to force an error (he has a loose carry), while the Titans will put plenty of pressure on the Raiders’ young players in the heat of battle.

The History:
Played 6; Titans 3, Raiders 3. The two teams have split results since the Gold Coast entered the competition – but all wins have come on home turf.

Canberra are yet to beat the Titans on the holiday strip, with the average score being 25-10.

Conclusion: It would take a brave person to tip against the Titans at home – but they haven’t looked impressive this year, despite notching two wins.

Countering that, they come up against a Raiders team who have been pretty dismal in both opening games, even though they managed to win one.

Take the easy way out and tick the Gold Coast on your form – at least you know you’ll be with the majority whatever the result.

Match officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Chris James; Sideline Officials – Grant Atkins & Luke Phillips; Video Ref – Chris Ward.

Televised: Fox Sports – Delayed 9.30pm (AEDT).