Titans v Roosters Preview

Titans v Roosters
Suncorp Stadium
Friday 7.45pm

One game stands between these two sides and an historic appearance in the grand final.

The Titans are looking for their inaugural grand final berth after joining the competition just four seasons ago – it is probably the biggest moment in Gold Coast sporting history.

The Roosters ‘won’ the wooden spoon last year – making their turnaround potentially the best since Western Suburbs, who came last in 1933 only to win the premiership the following year.

Both have legitimate claims to the decider. The Titans have been mostly methodical and flown ‘under the radar’, but they have the best halfback left in the competition in Scott Prince, a wily veteran five-eighth in Mat Rogers, a will-o’-the-wisp fullback in Preston Campbell and a nuggetty workhorse hooker in Nathan Friend.

The Roosters have been about as consistent as lumpy yoghurt this season, going win-loss early in the year and then having runs of wins, followed by runs of losses; now they are back to wins, with four in a row currently.

They have two of the best young halves in the game in Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce, a veteran fullback in Anthony Minichiello and a nuggetty young hooker of their own in Jake Friend.

(Seriously, it shapes as a mammoth match and if you haven’t bought your tickets yet, click the link above and get involved!)

The Titans are rested from a week off after they beat the Warriors in Week One of the finals, pushing their recent form to seven from eight games. They welcome Campbell back to the side after injury; he will play fullback, pushing William Zillman to the wing and Jordan Atkins onto an extended bench. Luke O’Dwyer has also been added to the reserves list but is unlikely to play.

The Roosters have lost winger Phil Graham to a pectoral muscle tear, which sees Joseph Leilua join the starting side.

Brian Smith has again played silly buggers, switching Myles from ‘lock’ to ‘second row’, with Anasta moving back into the #13 jersey. (Could this be a goodwill gesture to Anasta, with reports suggesting he’s unhappy in the Roosters’ back row and wants out of the Chook pen?)

Also, Ben Jones moves up from the eliminated under-20s team onto the bench, and Lopini Paea also comes onto an extended reserves bench.

Watch out Titans: The ‘Braith Anasta Corridor’ as Phil Gould called it recently, will be getting a work-out. By this he means the left-edge attack for the Roosters, who have been pretty lethal down this side of the field.

So far this year the Roosters’ most fertile tryscoring corridor has been this left edge, with 29 tries for the year. While they have tasted reasonable success right across the field, the fact that the Gold Coast are at their weakest in the same area will ensure Anasta and co get plenty of opportunities.

The right-side defenders for the Gold Coast, including backs Zillman, Prince and Clinton Toopi, need to find a way to combat the Roosters’ skipper or they could end up in the same boat as Penrith… done for the year.

The Titans also need to be wary of the Roosters attempting the breakaway from long range – they love to shift the ball wide early in the tackle count inside their own 20-metre zone. In fact, the side is the second most potent from long range, having scored 20 tries from inside their own half – the latest to halfback Mitchell Pearce who opened the scoring against the Panthers last week.

Watch out Roosters: While the Anasta corridor might be getting peppered by the Roosters, the Titans will be going right, hitting Anthony Laffranchi’s section of the field. The right edge is the Titans’ most fertile area of the field and attacking here might just work twofold. It is against the above-mentioned attacking players for the Roosters, so the defence could tire them out; but it is also the Roosters’ weak spot – they have conceded 27 tries this season in the area.

With a new winger coming onto this side of the field for the Roosters, there could also be further confusion. Everything adds up to a lot of attention from Rogers and Laffranchi in particular.

Where it will be won: We hear plenty about the halves in this game – Scott Prince and Mat Rogers for the Titans and Mitchell Pearce and Dally M medallist Todd Carney for the Roosters – and yes, they will have a huge bearing. But the forwards will dictate their involvement in this game and it is the grunt up front that will prove the difference here.

The Titans have averaged 1392 metres gained across the ground this season, a touch better than the Roosters who have averaged 1312 metres (a figure boosted slightly thanks to their 100-minute epic recently).

The Titans have allowed opposition teams to make 1307 metres a match on average, the Roosters are slightly worse at 1348 metres. Former Dragons’ props and team-mates Luke Bailey (Titans) and Jason Ryles (Roosters) now must lead their packs to victory against one another. Bailey averages 126 metres a match and is joined by Greg Bird (110 metres), Laffranchi (107 metres) and Mark Minichiello (104 metres) as Titans forwards who average triple figures.

Ryles is averaging 101 metres a match and only Nate Myles (105 metres) joins him as a Rooster forward in triple figures.

It is up the guts and on the edges where these men must shine. They must lay a platform and force defence to compress in tight, enabling the shifts wide to speed men to garner results.

The history: Played 6; Titans 4, Roosters 2. The Titans have won four of the past five between the clubs, including the last match which was played just five weeks ago in Round 24. On that occasion the Titans prevailed 23-14 in Sydney.

In the last match in Queensland, the Roosters prevailed 30-16 at Skilled Park in Round 12. In fact, the Roosters are undefeated interstate in 2010, winning in Brisbane, on the Gold Coast, in Townsville, Melbourne and Canberra.

The two sides have never come together at Suncorp Stadium. It will be the fifth venue in just seven games these two teams have played at.

Conclusion: The Roosters are on a roll but they are still loose in defence and Scott Prince and his forwards could tear them apart. This means Pearce and Carney will need to manufacture plenty of points, which they can do, but under pressure, in a Queensland cauldron… well it would be a massive effort.

Prince can build pressure better than most and it is this fact that gives the Titans the edge. They should win… but only just.

Match officials: Referees – Tony Archer & Jared Maxwell; Sideline Officials – Paul Holland & Jeff Younis; Video Ref – Bill Harrigan.

Televised: Channel Nine – Live from 7.30pm; Fox Sports – Delayed 10.30pm.