Gold Coast Titans v Penrith Panthers
Cbus Super Stadium
If a week is a long time in rugby league it must feel like an eternity since Round 2 for two teams with vastly different-looking rosters for Saturday's Round 7 clash at Cbus Super Stadium.
When the Titans travelled to Bathurst to play Penrith five weeks ago they did so without the services of Greg Bird, Dave Taylor and Beau Falloon who were under a club-imposed suspension while the injury toll for the Panthers has continued to climb with each week that has passed.
Robert Jennings is the latest Panther to be handed an NRL debut and will partner Waqa Blake in the centres following the season-ending ACL injury to Jamal Idris.
Apisai Koroisau and Isaac John will again fill the positions in the halves vacated by Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace but Elijah Taylor has been named in the forward pack despite suffering a knee injury against Manly last Saturday.
Despite the disruptions to their 17 the Panthers have continued winning to maintain a position in the top eight and boast a highly skilful outfit across the park not reliant on a sole creative hand.
Much of the creativity for the Titans in recent weeks has been courtesy of a couple of former Panthers with James Roberts catapulting himself to the top of the NRL try-scoring tally with seven tries and hooker Kierran Moseley's first grade education progressing quickly.
The Titans have won just one game at home since their Round 6 defeat of the Broncos last year but after breaking the shackles and scoring 38 points against the Eels last week have no better chance to finally give the locals something to cheer about.
Watch Out Titans: They may be without both their first-choice halfback and five-eighth but the key to Penrith's creativity lies with their precociously talented fullback, Matt Moylan. Through six rounds Moylan leads the NRL in both try assists and line-break assists and when his team needed greater input last week he obliged in style, laying on two tries, two line-break assists, making a line break of his own, running for 151 metres and kicking three goals from four attempts. While ever Moylan is playing, the Panthers remain a dangerous outfit.
Watch Out Panthers: It's hardly a state secret but if the Panthers inexperienced halves are thinking about throwing cut-out passes to the left side of the field they might need to reconsider if James Roberts is anywhere in the vicinity. Roberts has used his blistering speed to sprint to the front of the NRL try-scoring tally but he has done so on the back of three intercept tries, two of which came last week against the Eels. If ever a strength could turn into a weakness, expect Panthers coach Ivan Cleary to try to lure the speedster out of the defensive line with a carefully constructed set move that will deliver six points for one team, or the other.
Key Match-up: The respective benches. There is an argument to be made that the Titans have a more settled starting 13 than the Panthers this week but it is the four on the bench where the mountain men may boast something of an edge. Tyrone Peachey is one of the purest footballers in the competition, Sam McKendry is a former Kiwi prop getting back to his best, Reagan Campbell-Gillard could be the biggest 21-year-old in the NRL and Isaah Yeo is a rangy type capable of causing havoc on the edges. Titans coach Neil Henry has named a five-man bench and he'll need to get the make-up just right to match what the Panthers are set to bring from the pine.
History: Played 12; Titans 4; Panthers 8.
The Panthers made it four on the trot against the Titans with their Round 2 40-0 shellacking in Bathurst, the third time in their past four meetings that they had scored at least 36 points. In nine of the 12 matches between these teams the total match points has totalled at least 40 points.
Did You Know: Four Panthers have scored hat-tricks against the Titans, three of whom have spent time at the Gold Coast club. In 2010 current Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote scored a treble in a losing Panthers team, in Round 25, 2012 injured Titans centre Brad Tighe scored three tries in a 36-24 win for the Panthers and then in Round 17, 2013 the scintillating James Roberts tore the Titans to shreds in a 40-18 win for the mountain men. Former Titan Jamal Idris came back to haunt Gold Coast in Round 2 this year, scoring a hat-trick in the Panthers' big win.
What Are The Odds: Titans $1.93 v Panthers $1.87.
The Titans have been well supported at home and are as popular dollar-wise as the Panthers. There's more money on Gold Coast to win 13-plus than all of Sportsbet's other margin options combined. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Jared Maxwell. Assistant Referee: Chris James. Touch Judges: Adam Reid and Kasey Badger. Video Referees: Steve Clark and Luke Patten.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 3pm.
The Way We See It: A patched-up Panthers were brave in knocking over Manly last week but valour only takes you so far in the NRL. They are decimated by injuries to key players and have what must be the youngest three-quarter line in the competition. Buoyed by a big win over the Eels, the Titans have shown that there was substance to narrow losses early in the season and should play with greater freedom on Saturday. Their recent home record is horrendous but something they are due to overcome. Titans by 10 points.