Gold Coast Titans v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Cbus Super Stadium
No Titans player will say that this is a good time to play the defending premiers for fear that it will somehow inspire a team struggling for cohesion to produce their best display of the season, but make no mistake, this is a very good time for the Titans to be hosting the Rabbitohs.
Minus Adam Reynolds and Glenn Stewart and with severe doubt as to whether Greg Inglis will be in a position to back-up after Origin I makes South Sydney look as vulnerable as at any time in Michael Maguire's reign as coach.
It took an extremely poor piece of defence from the Eels in the 75th minute before the Rabbitohs were able to edge their way in front in what were admittedly atrocious conditions at ANZ Stadium last Friday night.
The greatest concern for the Titans is that even though South Sydney are below their best they are still finding ways to win. Having lost three games at home by a combined total of four points it is a quality the Titans are still very much learning as they aim to keep pace with the top five.
Former Rabbitoh Beau Falloon is out of the Titans team with a dislocated wrist and David Mead (hamstring) has been replaced on the wing by Kevin Gordon.
The Rabbitohs have named Inglis at fullback and shifted Alex Johnston back to the wing in place of Joel Reddy. Chris Grevsmuhl and debutant John Olive have been added to a six-man bench that also includes George Burgess.
Despite suffering stretched ligaments in his knee against the Eels, Ben Lowe has been named in the second row for South Sydney and Bryson Goodwin will play his 50th game for the club.
Watch Out Titans: Luke Keary's first two tries in the NRL came in a single game against the Titans in his rookie season in 2013 and the former Burleigh Bear would love nothing more to heap further misery on the club that overlooked him for being too small. He's been burdened by the pressure of guiding the Rabbitohs around the park in the absence of Adam Reynolds but playing alongside John Sutton last week he returned to somewhere near his best. Keary topped the stats for South Sydney in line breaks (two) and tackle busts (six) and his running game will catch out any lazy Titans defenders.
Watch Out Rabbitohs: One of three former Rabbitohs lining up for the Titans on Saturday, Eddy Pettybourne has become one of the Titans' most consistent contributors since joining the club just prior to the start of the season. His average of 115 metres off the bench is second only to Greg Bird and his 10 offloads have created plenty of second-phase play through the middle of the field. With the sheer size of the Rabbitohs forwards, Pettybourne's leg speed and energy in the middle third shapes as a real trump card for the home side.
Key Match-Up: David Taylor v Chris McQueen. Two spurned members of Queensland's Origin squad from last year and former teammates get the opportunity to give Maroons selectors a little reminder of their credentials with a one-on-one stoush on Saturday. After a sluggish start to the season McQueen has been a threat on the Rabbitohs' left edge and got through an impressive amount of work, including 43 tackles last week against the Eels. But this is the game where the Titans desperately need a runaway 'Coal Train'. In seven games Taylor has made 21 tackle busts and three line-breaks and 'Good Dave' could make the difference in this one.
History: Played 12; Titans 5; Rabbitohs 7. Prior to their 14-10 win at ANZ Stadium in Round 17 last year the Titans had endured a five-match losing streak to the Rabbitohs having won their previous three encounters on the trot. The last two visits to the Gold Coast have been fruitful for South Sydney, winning by a combined total of 72-22.
Did You Know: Three former Rabbitohs have scored against their old club while playing for the Titans. Mark Minichiello scored in the first meeting of the two teams in Round 11 2007 and then scored a double in Gold Coast's 22-14 win in Round 23, 2009. Chris Walker – who played just five games for South Sydney – scored in Round 8, 2009 and Dave Taylor crossed in the Titans' 40-18 loss in Round 9 last year.
What Are The Odds: Titans $2.60, Rabbitohs $1.50. There is nearly three times the money placed on the Rabbitohs in comparison to the Titans. Sportsbet punters have identified South Sydney at the line as the best bet in this match. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Grant Atkins; Assistant Referee: Gavin Reynolds; Touch Judges: Jeff Younis and Clayton Sharpe; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell and Ben Galea.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 3pm
The Way We See It: The bookmakers will tell you that this is a foregone conclusion but the Rabbitohs' shaky run of form and the Titans' strong displays at home would suggest this match will be go down to the wire. Given his bout of tonsilitis last week Greg Inglis must be in severe doubt to back up after Origin I and a dry track should suit the Titans' quick men. This is a danger game for the Bunnies but their class should just get them home. Again. Rabbitohs by 4 points.