Wests Tigers v Gold Coast Titans
Like Batman being lowered into a tank full of sharks by the Joker, both the Wests Tigers and Gold Coast Titans know that if they don't start climbing the ladder soon their hopes for a fruitful 2015 season will be ripped to shreds.
Currently one win from both eighth position and dead last on the Telstra Premiership ladder, the only points either team has banked since Round 8 has come courtesy of their respective byes with the Tigers actually moving up three spots on the back of their weekend off.
Prior to the bye the Tigers had fallen in consecutive weeks to the Roosters, Knights and Cowboys while the Titans' three-game winning streak has been all but wiped away following losses to the Raiders, Sharks and Rabbitohs.
Although they defended stoutly against South Sydney in Round 12 the Titans' chances were cruelled by a horrible completion rate and a penalty count that went 10-6 the way of the Rabbitohs.
The Tigers have gone more than 110 minutes since they last scored a point but will relish the chance to play a rare Friday night game at Leichhardt Oval.
Aaron Woods has been named captain in the absence of Robbie Farah with David Nofoaluma and Keith Galloway to return having missed the 8-0 loss to the Cowboys.
Chris Lawrence has again been named to play in the back row for the Tigers with Kyle Lovett dropping back to a six-man bench that also includes rookie hooker Manaia Cherrington and young props Jack Buchanan and Matthew Lodge.
The Titans will once again be without William Zillman (back) with Mark Ioane replacing Matthew White on the bench and Agnatius Paasi included on an extended bench. Daniel Mortimer will again start at hooker with Kierran Moseley to be used off the bench.
Watch Out Tigers: Now is the time when Queensland players normally hit top form and Dave Taylor showed against the Rabbitohs last Saturday that his best may not be too far away. Stung by his omission from the Maroons from Game One, Taylor came off the bench against South Sydney and was a handful from his first run. He ran for 144 metres in 49 minutes, laid on a try for Anthony Don with some silky skill late in the second half and had three tackle busts of his own. The 'Coal Train' has been named to start this week and his match-up with Curtis Sironen will be a beauty.
Watch Out Titans: Top of the tip sheet any time a team takes on the Tigers, limiting the influence of tackle-busting James Tedesco is an assignment easier planned than executed. In a game where his team failed to score a point last start against the Cowboys, Tedesco had an astonishing 10 tackle busts to take his season tally to 62, the most in the NRL through 12 rounds. In their past three matches the Titans have missed an average of 39 tackles per game, a stat no doubt music to the ears of the elusive Tedesco.
Key Match-up: Luke Brooks v Kane Elgey. The 20-year-old reigning Dally M Rookie of the Year matches wits with the 21-year-old reigning Holden Cup Player of the Year in what the respective fans will hope is the first of many meetings between the pair. In his second full year in the NRL Brooks is developing a wonderful combination with fullback James Tedesco and with six tries, trails only Tedesco and Pat Richards as the Tigers top try-scorer. Elgey's opportunity in the NRL came earlier than anticipated courtesy of an injury to Daniel Mortimer and he made an immediate impact, the Titans winning four of their first five games with Elgey at No. 7. This game will be close with 10 minutes to go and the result will hinge on which young half can make the right decisions under pressure.
History: Played 14; Tigers 7; Titans 7. Pat Richards' field goal in Round 2 that gave the Tigers a 19-18 win right on full-time was the third time in seven wins over the Titans where the Tigers have prevailed by a solitary point. They twice got the better of Gold Coast to the tune of 15-14 and in the first meeting of these two teams at Leichhardt in 2008 Wests prevailed 20-18. This will be Wests Tigers' 65th game at Leichhardt Oval where they have a winning percentage of 61 per cent.
Did You Know? Pat Richards has cashed in against the Titans, in three games against Gold Coast Richards has scored four tries, kicked 10 goals and kicked the match-winning field goal in Round 2 for a personal tally of 39 points.
What Are The Odds? Wests Tigers $1.65, Titans $2.25. The Titans have been identified as great value by Sportsbet punters and the money is running 2:1 in favour of the visitors. Gold Coast at the line has been gobbled up with the Titans receiving the start (3.5). Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant Referee: Henry Perenara. Touch Judges: Ricky MacFarlane and Russell Turner. Video Referees: Steve Chiddy and Luke Patten.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live 7.30pm (NSW); Delayed 9.30pm (Qld)
The Way We See It: Two teams desperate to stay within reach of the top eight put it all on the line as we reach the halfway point of the season. The Tigers' home ground advantage counts for plenty but the absence of Robbie Farah could cruel their chances. In the past four years the Tigers have played 21 games without Farah and have won just six at a winning percentage of 29 per cent. The Titans have been somewhat unfortunate to lose their past two and may just find a way to turn the tables on a rare Friday night. Titans by seven points.