‘Now listen, Oh we’re stepping out. I’m gonna turn around, gonna turn around once and we’ll do the Eagle Rock. Hey hey hey, good old Eagle Rock’s here to stay…’
After four wins on the trot, the best active streak in the NRL right now, the Sea Eagles appear the real deal and will be out to continue their run in front of a Brookvale Oval crowd itching to sing the above Daddy Cool lyrics come full-time.
Coach Des Hasler may have had his side back under the radar for a little while but a win over Melbourne in Melbourne has the Eagles back in the frame as premiership material.
Currently third, the Sea Eagles look tough, gritty and have some flash, but more importantly they appear to have plenty of improvement in them.
Their opponents, the Titans, suffered their second loss of the year against the Dragons, their first loss without Scott Prince, and now sit in sixth.
They must regroup fast for the trip to Brookvale, a ground where they have found no love in three visits – in fact it is their number one bogey venue.
Manly welcome back Brent Kite from suspension, while Jamie Buhrer and Vic Mauro are also added to the bench. Young Buhrer must have felt the real ups and downs of NRL football against the Storm. Named to make his debut, he sat on the bench for the entire 80 minutes, no doubt a bundle of nervous energy. His time for game number one will have to wait.
The Titans have lost centre Mat Rogers to injury but welcome back another veteran in former Warriors and New Zealand centre Clinton Toopi. Jordan Atkins has also been added to a five-man bench.
Watch out Sea Eagles: With representative season on the horizon Anthony Laffranchi wants a huge game up against Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart to push his claims for Test and New South Wales jerseys.
Laffranchi is currently averaging 112 metres per match, has four line-breaks, a line-break assist, a try assist and two tries plus 17 tackle-breaks and four offloads. He knows he will need to lift these numbers even higher to gain the selectors’ eyes once more and if he can dominate against the Manly pair he’ll be pressing his claims hard.
Watch out Titans: The Sea Eagles’ kicking game has been clinical in recent weeks and is a big factor in their ability to control games. They are kicking for 617 metres a match, behind just St George Illawarra, and are backing up these great numbers by allowing just 489 metres a match from the opposition.
The side also finds space with kicks 57.4 per cent of the time. Considering their back three haven’t been expressly potent this year, this commitment to the kick, and the kick pressure on others, is a vital cog in their success.
The Gold Coast need to find a way to upset the Manly kickers, put more pressure on them and also lift their own kicking-game back-up. Without Scott Prince, the usually stable kicking game of the Titans is waning – not a good sign in the lead up to this match.
Where it will be won: Potency from close range. Both the Sea Eagles and the Titans rely heavily on scoring from close range, with the Titans scoring 14 of 18 tries from within 20 metres of the line and the Sea Eagles scoring 21 of 25 from the same distance.
It is apparent both teams know how to break apart defences by running the right lines when the try line is in sight, but how does their goal-line defence stack up? Well, the Gold Coast have conceded 13 tries from within 20 metres of their line – exactly the same number the Sea Eagles have leaked. Scrambling defence therefore will be the key to the night.
Which team wants to defend their territory more? The Manly boys have managed to pull off 23 try-saving tackles this season, the Titans 18 – but bear in mind someone in the team usually has to miss a tackle before you are in a position to make a try-saver.
The History: Played 5; Sea Eagles 4, Titans 1. The two sides have played three previous matches at Brookvale Oval, with all three going to the Sea Eagles. The Titans only win over Manly came last season and it was a controversial one-point victory at Skilled Park.
Otherwise, the Sea Eagles have the wood on the Titans, winning the other four games by an average 21.5 points.
Conclusion: Manly are on a roll and look good here, especially after the Titans lost Mat Rogers to go with their lack of Prince.
Brookvale has not been a nice place for the Gold Coast and could continue to be so unless the side comes fresh full of confidence in the mood to go the whole 80 minutes.
If Manly has a weakness, it’s going for 80, so the Titans are a big show if they stick with the home side early.
In terms of your tip, the safe bet is by far the home side, but the Titans are certainly capable.
Match officials: Referees – Jared Maxwell & Bernard Sutton; Sideline Officials – Paul Holland & Gavin Morris; Video Ref – Sean Hampstead.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7pm.