Gold Coast Titans v Warriors
Cbus Super Stadium
Anyone who can tell me with 100 per cent accuracy how this game is going to play out can have my job because this match-up is as tantalising as it could be frustrating.
Given their off-field turmoil and injury toll it is nothing short of extraordinary that the Titans sit inside the top eight through the first 14 rounds with a differential superior to four other teams also sitting on 14 competition points.
One of those teams is the Warriors who must still be longingly looking at the Roosters in fifth spot on 16 points and wondering how it can possibly be that they are not there in their place.
The Warriors were spectacular against the competition favourites in the opening 40 minutes last week but then were shown in the second half just what teams with genuine premiership aspirations are made of.
These two teams are the equal worst in the NRL for completion rates and the Titans are the most penalised team in the competition yet there are many irresistible characteristics that make them dangerous.
The Titans are showing tremendous spirit to defend for each other (ranked third for try-saving tackles) and are ranked third also for average support runs per game with 127, a great indicator of commitment in a team.
The Warriors are the best in the NRL in avoiding slow play-the-balls and are ranked third for line breaks with Manu Vatuvei and Solomone Kata having 11 apiece.
Titans coach Neil Henry is still weighing up whether to rush both Chad Redman and Nene MacDonald into their 17 this week with Redman the more likely of the two to make his club debut.
Origin forwards Ryan Hoffman and Jacob Lillyman have both been named to return for the Warriors and Siliva Havili and Raymond Faitala-Mariner have been added to an extended bench.
Tuimoala Lolohea has been named at fullback but Sam Tomkins will fly with the squad to the Gold Coast before a decision is made on whether he makes a return from a posterior cruciate ligament injury first suffered against the Eels way back in Round 3 that has seen him play just one game since.
Watch Out Titans: As countryman Jesse Bromwich has established himself in Melbourne as the game's premier front-rower, Ben Matulino is quickly mounting a strong argument that the Kiwis have the best two bookends in the business. Leading the NRL in offloads through 14 rounds, Matulino ranks seventh in total running metres at an average of 150 per game but it is his fast feet at the line that makes him such a dangerous proposition. Playing against the team who miss more tackles than anyone else in the NRL makes Matulino the man to watch.
Watch Out Warriors: The club has called in some mid-season back-up in former Knight Chad Redman but Titans coach Neil Henry may have found his new No.9 in the form of Daniel Mortimer. Having arrived at the Titans to play exclusively as a No.7, Mortimer has responded to an injury crisis in the hooking ranks as you would expect from such a competitor. Mortimer's energy around the ruck was crucial against the big Bulldogs team last weekend with his three try assists in stark contrast to one from his previous seven games. In what is expected to be a high-tempo contest, Mortimer's spark and bravery in defence could be crucial for the home side.
Key Match-up: James Roberts v Solomone Kata. Whether you're wearing the blue of the Titans or black of the Warriors, these are the two young men who you are coming to Cbus Super Stadium to see. Roberts celebrated a new two-year deal on the Gold Coast with a dazzling two-try display against the Bulldogs last week that took his season tally to 13, just two behind the league-leading Curtis Rona. Kata also scored twice last weekend against the Roosters and laid on another for Tuimoala Lolohea and has 11 tries for the season himself. Two highly-confident youngsters with rare gifts going head-to-head is going to be fun to watch.
History: Played 17; Titans 7; Warriors 10. The Titans' last start 32-28 win over the Warriors in Auckland in Round 8 broke an eight-game losing streak to their New Zealand neighbours and it is the visitors who have the better of things at Cbus Super Stadium. Often boasting the lion's share of support in the stands, the Warriors have won the past four meetings on the Gold Coast and a total of five from nine games against the Titans on the Gold Coast.
Did You Know? This game will mark the 18th time the Titans have played the Warriors, making them Gold Coast's most prevalent opponent since joining the competition in 2007. They have played each other twice every year except in 2008 and in 2010 played a Qualifying Final at Robina in front of more than 27,000 fans, the Titans winning 28-16.
What Are The Odds? Titans $1.90, Warriors $1.90. With both teams renowned for being unpredictable it is little wonder Sportsbet punters are treating this game with caution. Money is split 50/50 in the head-to-head market and in line betting as well. A win by 1-12 for either side might be the way to go. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Matt Cecchin. Assistant Referee: Gavin Reynolds. Touch Judges: Clayton Sharpe and Michael Wise. Video Referees: Bernard Sutton and Luke Patten.
Televised: Fox Sports –Live 5.30pm
How We See It: Entertaining, unpredictable and absolutely critical to both team's finals chances. Two of six teams wedged either side of the top eight cut-off and with a bye to come in Round 17, a win on Saturday puts them within reach of finals football, something neither team has tasted for the past three years. Discipline in possession will decide the outcome, and given their upward trend last week that looks like being the Titans. Titans by four.