Titans to go all-in on Fifita
The Warriors have inadvertently provided the Titans with a defensive blueprint that they intend to use on Saturday when they host the Sharks at Cbus Super Stadium: no one man can stop Andrew Fifita.
When he pushed away from five attempted one-on-one tackles to score one of the tries of the season Fifita appeared to have given his side the opportunity to record a thrilling win before Shaun Johnson stepped in – and around – to snatch victory.
But the lesson was there for all to see and with a New South Wales Origin jersey beckoning, the Titans know they must go all-in on Fifita if they hope to limit his influence.
In addition to Fifita's good form of late, the Sharks welcome back big brother David to the mix on Saturday and Titans forward Mark Ioane said it is crucial they get the better of both Fifita boys.
"Andrew plays a lot more minutes so you can tell by that and David is a lot bigger," Ioane said when asked whether he can tell them apart on the field. "I reckon if we shut down both the Fifita brothers we'll do well.
"I reckon if we work in twos and threes we can get [Andrew] down. It's a teamwork thing so we've just got to make sure we do that.
"Work in a line and don't drop off him. He's got footwork and that big fend as well so we've just got to make sure that we shut that down."
With experienced campaigners in Michael Ennis, Luke Lewis and captain Wade Graham also in the Sharks forward pack, the battle in the middle shapes as a crucial one as the Titans' big men attempt to atone for last week's capitulation in Canberra.
Although the Titans average one more offload per game than the Sharks, Ioane believes that is an area they need to pay particular attention to at the defensive end.
"By shutting down their offloads," was Ioane's quick response when asked how to keep the Sharks forwards quiet. "We know they're capable of that, especially with the Fifita brothers so we've just got to make sure that we're up for it.
"We know as players we're capable of better things on the field than that. It was real disappointing last week the way we performed and the boys are looking forward to playing better this week."
Another intriguing match-up on Saturday is that of the five-eighths, with the calm head of Titans No.6 Aidan Sezer against the player many are tipping to be the Dally M Rookie of the Year at season's end, Jack Bird.
While the Titans have their own rookie half who has made an instant impact in the top grade in Kane Elgey, Bird has emerged as a genuine match-winner in just six NRL games, scoring three tries, making 23 tackle breaks and laying on seven offloads.
"He's playing good footy but he's had a few games now and we can sort of see what he's got," Sezer said.
"He brings a lot of energy to their team so if we can do a job on him this week it will put us in good shape to win the game.
"Every game is desperation now. We had a bit of a slip-up last week which was disappointing but the Sharks are a very promising team and were unlucky not to get the result last week and we'll have our hands full this week.
"The comp's pretty tight this year. One week we were sitting in fifth and now we're sitting back in 13th so it shows the depth of the competition and the quality of sides in the comp."