Titans v Cowboys Preview

Titans v Cowboys
Skilled Park
Saturday, 5.30pm

Let’s be honest here – this match should be a Titans runaway win – but if the Gold Coast boys come into the match with this sort of complacency they could get roped and branded by the Cowboys. And the ramifications could be huge.

Yes the Cowboys have won just five games all year (one against the Titans) and have had an NRL-high 542 points scored against them (27.1 a game). Yes, they are without their captain and playmaker Johnathan Thurston for the remainder of the year. And yes, their minds are on the end-of-season trip – but if they are to jag another win this year, you know they’d love it to be against their Queensland brothers.

The Titans simply cannot afford complacency. They might need just one more win to basically cement a finals berth but the logjam for positions in the finals is suffocating.

They are currently fourth on the ladder following a good win over Parramatta but while a win could see them as high as second, a loss could see them freefall all the way to eighth if other results go against them.

If they are entertaining thoughts of a top-four finish and home final they must win this match as they also have games against the Roosters and Wests Tigers to come and can’t afford to give either a ‘free jump’ before these contests.

Coach John Cartwright has retained the side from the win over the Eels, although Origin player Greg Bird returns to a five-man bench and if passed fit is a certainty to play.

The Cowboys have named Grant Rovelli to cover for Thurston, while James Tamou is also out of the side that lost to Brisbane after he was suspended for his role in a brawl. Ben Harris and Isaak Ah Mau have been added to a five-man bench at this stage.

Watch out Titans:
The Cowboys don’t really pose many threats, especially without Thurston to feed the likes of Bowen, Bolton and Tonga.
But with a few weeks under his belt perhaps this is a match former ‘bad boy’ Arana Taumata to really showcase his skills.

It is no secret plenty of good judges believe the kid has talent; he just had issues settling down away from football. With a chance to have more of a say on the direction of the team this week, perhaps we’ll see some of this potential.

Look for Taumata to test the line often, as he loves getting a little physical.

Watch out Cowboys: Greg Bird is due to return from the bench, most likely in the forwards, after the side have found some cohesion and a way to win.

After Mat Rogers’ success at five-eighth and Bird’s performance as a back-rower for the Blues in Game Three, you get the feeling his impact in the pack could be significant. It will mean Ashley Harrison playing some time at second row and Anthony Laffranchi spending some time at prop, but this shouldn’t upset the applecart; rather it should strengthen the line-up.

Scott Prince can still dominate proceedings and Rogers and Preston Campbell can play their cameo roles. If the Cowboys are looking for a down period when subs come on, they won’t get it now.

Where it will be won: Attitude towards the simple things. When coming into a game like this teams can sometimes get into a touch football-style shoot-out instead of remembering to get tough and set up good chances through disciplined football.

For the Titans to get the job done (like most expect), they need to come out with a clear focus on the “one percenters” as they are called. They need to create a good kicking game, provide an enthusiastic chase every time and, quite simply, they need to tackle and run hard.

You often hear a losing coach say: ‘They just ran and tackled harder than us.’ It’s not a cop-out line, it is simple reality. When a team is not at their peak, players tend to just go through the motions sometimes and run with less intensity. This has a ripple effect, as you start to get dominated in tackles, the play-the-balls are slower and your field position is poor. If you don’t tackle as hard, you are often found defending your line.

The Titans need to prepare as if they are playing a top-eight team, and play a game plan accordingly.

The Cowboys also need a better attitude if they are to compete. It is one thing to just throw the ball around in hope, but you need some hard yards done beforehand, otherwise this could get ugly.

The history: Played 6; Titans 3, Cowboys 3. The Cowboys scored one of their rare wins this season against the Titans, making it two in a row against the Gold Coast.

North Queensland also won the last match between the clubs here at Skilled Park, making it 1-1 at the venue.
 
But the Cowboys’ record without Johnathan Thurston is dismal against everybody.  

Conclusion: Give me a ‘T’, give me an ‘I’, give me a ‘T’, give me an ‘A’, give me an ‘N’, give me an ‘S’.

Match officials: Referees – Jason Robinson & Ashley Klein; Sideline Officials – Paul Holland & Gavin Reynolds; Video Ref – Tim Mander.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 5.30pm.