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Bulldogs v Titans
Suncorp Stadium
Friday 8:45pm

Can it get better? Or could it possibly get any worse? That’s what the Bulldogs will be asking themselves leading into this game, with a sixth straight loss sure to plummet them even further down the ladder – in all likelihood permanently for 2010.

The ’Dogs have the fewest wins of any club this season – and with two byes already played, there’s no more free points on offer if they’re still a chance of even threatening the top eight.

The Titans, on the other hand, are still sitting pretty inside the top four despite having a few off weeks since Round 9. The Titans dropped three in a row after their close win over the Knights in Newcastle, which included a hammering at the hands of the Roosters in front of their home fans at Skilled Park.

Still, the Gold Coast side are one to be reckoned with – as Manly quickly found out last week; should you drop enough ball and give away penalties, the Titans will make you pay.

And that’s a scary sign for the Bulldogs, who have suffered badly with errors so far this season.

But if there’s any hope left for the blue and whites, there is no better way to celebrate it than in front of a double-header crowd at Suncorp Stadium.

Watch out Bulldogs: The Titans have a host of world class playmakers in their side and aren’t afraid to use them. With Scott Prince at the helm, the Titans also have the skills of Preston Campbell, Mat Rogers and Greg Bird to bolster the youthful exuberance of their outside backs.

Bird has been improving every week, and has now made five line-breaks, nine line-break assists, and assisted in seven tries as well as scoring two himself. He’s also busted out of 42 tackles, one more than Preston Campbell, who is still eluding the bigger men around him with his speed and agility.

The point is, the ’Dogs can’t afford to be caught napping. The Titans have scored most of their tries this year from line-breaks, which is perfect for them (and terrible for the ’Dogs), seeing as their opposition is the second worst when it comes to conceding offloads.

If the ’Dogs don’t shut down the inevitable second-phase play they could be in for a long night. Add to that the speed of Kevin Gordon and David Mead, and suddenly there is a lot of chasing to do.

Also, the Gold Coast have the added benefit of only one player in Ashley Harrison returning from Origin duty.

Watch out Titans: Well, the Bulldogs could certainly still fire. They have the skill and quality of player in their squad, and it appears to be an attitudinal thing that is hampering their progression this season.

In the off chance that they do decide this is the week to turn it all around, the ’Dogs are lucky to be coming up against one of the worst defensive teams in the competition. The Titans average 37.5 missed tackles a game, only slightly less than the actual worst defenders in the NRL, the Broncos.

Missed tackles means greater opportunities to create some attacking spark, which the Bulldogs had in bucket-loads last year – and have still appeared to possess at stages this season.

 Their only Origin worries are Ben Hannant and Michael Ennis – but on the positive side, there’s no travel required by either player, and the quick back-up Friday night game might save them from the soreness kicking in.

Kevin Moore has opted for four forwards in Chris Armit, Yileen Gordon, Brad Morrin and new (ex-Storm) recruit Ryan Tandy on his bench, which shows he’s clearly thinking about the Titans’ defensive issues – running big, fresh men at tired little men may be a way through the Gold Coast defence.

Also in their favour, however unconsciously, if the signing of Trent Hodkinson to the club for next year. Brett Kimmorley has openly said he wants to stay at the ’Dogs for another year – with a new halfback coming in, it’s his time to kick it up a notch and bring on the form which took the Bulldogs to within a game of the grand final in ’09.

Where it will be won: On the scoreboard. You just wonder, with the defensive weaknesses of both sides, how anyone will be able to hold on under sustained pressure.

Field position and repeat sets will be vital to the outcome of the match, with a try-for-try contest definitely a possibility.

The history: Played: 5; Bulldogs 3, Titans 2. The Bulldogs beat the Titans by seven points in the corresponding match at Suncorp Stadium last year, but needless to say their form was much, much better.

The Bulldogs hold slight favour in head-to-head statistics. However, the last time the ’Dogs beat the Titans before that game at Suncorp was way back in 2007, when the new club was still finding its feet in the NRL.

The ’Dogs also don’t seem to mind the road trip, with two of their three wins occurring in Queensland.

Conclusion: With the kicking of Prince and Campbell at their disposal, you’ve got to say that the Gold Coast will take this one easily.

The Bulldogs haven’t been able to string together a consistent 80-minute performance all year, and while you can’t cruise by any opposition, you especially can’t fall asleep against a top four team.

The Gold Coast need to win this if they are to show that they’re real premiership contenders.

Match officials: Referees – Steve Lyons & Tony De Las Heras; Sideline officials – Steve Chiddy & Gerard Sutton; Video referee – Tim Mander.

Channel Nine – Live 8.45pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats
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