Raiders can take a leaf from Titans scrap-book
Prop Dane Tilse says the Raiders expect nothing less than a dogfight from the Titans this Sunday, and will need to take a leaf out of their opposition's book if they're to record their first win since May.
There was nothing pretty about the Titans' Monday night Bunny boilover, when they pulled off one of the upsets of the season in triumphing 14-10 in a game where there were more penalties and errors recorded than points scored, but the win moves them to within two points of the top eight after six losses on the trot had their season on life support.
Five of the Titans seven wins this season have come by a margin of six points or less, and Tilse says the Raiders can learn from their opponent's ability to grind their way to victory.
"It'll boost them in confidence no doubt, knowing they didn't play their best footy on Monday but ground out a win anyway, and we could probably take a bit of that on board," says Tilse.
"The Titans are pretty good at that, they're very good when it gets down to a scrap so we're going to have to be really good and willing to go at them in that sense to beat them on Sunday.
"They've always been a committed side with some great players, and they love fighting over a bone.
"They're a strong forward pack and they've got a lot of offloads in them too, so we're going to have to muscle up in defence as well."
Both outfits have struggled to score points this season, with the Titans (249) ranking 15th in the league and the typically flamboyant Raiders (272) not faring much better, despite generating some of the most second-phase football in the NRL.
The Titans sit behind only the Sharks – who have failed to trouble the scorers on four occasions this year – for offloads, with an average of 12.4 a game, while the Raiders are sixth in the competition with 10.3 per match.
The Raiders and the Titans also rank poorly when it comes to errors – Canberra (fourth worst) averaging 12 a game, and the Titans the worst in the NRL with 13.1 a match – and Tilse admitted capitalising on their second-phase play would see the Raiders go a long way to winning their first game since trouncing the Cowboys (who were missing their Origin stars) 42-12 in Round 11.
"I think with defences these days, they're so hard to crack, you really need a bit of second phase to get the defensive line a bit staggered and not so organised, but obviously you've got to hang onto the ball at the same time" says Tilse.
"It's definitely a good option in terms of playing fast and direct against that staggered line.
"If you can get controlled offloads and keep your completions high, it's going to help any side. If you're offloading a lot it can lead to errors and affect your completion rates. And everyone knows how important they are.
"It depends on what stage of the game it is, and you've got to control and calculate it, but with what comes off the back of it with our young fast blokes like (Anthony) Milford and Mac (halfback Josh McCrone) it suits our game.
"It's a positive for them so we need to get our offloading game going as well to match them."
Canberra are yet to name a replacement for would-be debutant Jeremy Hawkins, who was slated to play his first NRL game in Sunday's fixture before the Raiders were denied an exemption from the competition's second tier salary cap, on the grounds that other players already included in their top squad were available in his position.
Tilse conceded that while it is a disappointment for the youngster, who bagged four tries for feeder club Mounties last weekend, as long as the NRL applied the laws consistently he did not have an issue with the contentious ruling.
"It is disappointing for him," says Tilse.
"Obviously you look forward to making your debut and we look forward to seeing a young guy come into the team as well.
"But rules are rules and as long as the NRL's being consistent with it that's all you can ask for. We've had players turned down before and other clubs have before too."