Sydney Roosters v Gold Coast Titans
Central Coast Stadium
A match-up between the premiership favourites coming into form and a finals hopeful desperate to stop another season from slipping away would appear a straightforward scenario, and the bookmakers agree.
The Titans have drifted ever since they opened as $5.80 outsiders on Monday but as the Roosters discovered in Round 5, footy doesn't always go according to script.
On that occasion the cellar-dwelling Sharks were rated a $4.20 chance to knock off a Roosters team who had won three of their first four games of the season and in this game the Titans go in with a superior head-to-head record.
Decimated by injuries, Titans coach Neil Henry is set to throw a few positional switches at the Roosters to try and disrupt the second-best defence in the competition but discipline will be critical to both teams.
The Roosters receive less penalties (five) per game than any other team in the competition while the Titans are guilty of giving away more penalties (eight) than any other team.
The Titans' discipline in defence will also be tested against a team that averages 28 tackle breaks per game; Gold Coast's average of 33 missed tackles per game is the worst in the NRL.
Michael Jennings and Sam Moa have both been named to return for the Roosters after missing Monday night's win over the Dragons while The Titans are without Aidan Sezer (hamstring) and could also lose Ryan James (shoulder).
Having spent five years at Bondi, Titans skipper Nate Myles will play his 200th NRL game against his former club.
In addition to school visits and Come-and-Try clinics on Friday, the Roosters are conducting an open training session at midday on Saturday at Central Coast Stadium for any fans who would like to go along and watch the boys go through their paces.
And for fans attending the game, stick around after full-time for the VB NSW Cup match between Wyong and Penrith featuring local hero Mitch Williams and a host of players with NRL experience from both teams.
Watch Out Roosters: He is a face familiar to players and fans alike and no one will know the threat Nene Macdonald poses to the Roosters better than coach Trent Robinson. A member of the Roosters system for the past four years, the 21-year-old made a mid-season switch to the Titans last week and impressed many with his first-up display against the Warriors, one of only four Titans players to run for more than 100 metres, laying on a try to go with three offloads and three tackle busts. The opportunity to go up against Blake Ferguson is one the PNG international is very excited about.
Watch Out Titans: It's no blinding revelation to Gold Coast coach Neil Henry that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is a man to be monitored more closely than a toddler in a lolly shop, but given the Titans' low playmaking stocks the Roosters fullback is even more deadly. The man with the prettiest pirouette in footy has made more runs than any other player in the competition and has run for almost 1,000 more metres than any other player in the NRL. By his standards he was kept relatively quiet against the Dragons and still ran for 195 metres with nine tackle busts and with the Titans' kicking game lessened by the injury to five-eighth Aidan Sezer, RTS could be in for a field day.
Key Match-up: Mitchell Pearce v Daniel Mortimer. Two of rugby league's most revered family names go head-to-head in very different stages of their careers. Pearce is out to deliver another classy performance before heading into a State of Origin decider with the Blues, while Mortimer has been handed the No.7 jersey again after a raft of injuries decimated the Titans' playmaking stocks. With Josh Hoffman at five-eighth and young Chad Redman starting at hooker much will fall to Mortimer who has been terrific playing at hooker over the past month. Pearce, on the other hand, has representative stars both inside and out but needs to ensure the overwhelming favourites stick to the plan throughout and don't fall into the trap of complacency.
History: Played 12; Roosters 5, Titans 7. One of only six teams who the Titans have a winning record over, the Roosters won the first encounter in 2007 24-18, but the most significant meeting was in the 2010 Preliminary Final played in front of more than 44,000 fans in Brisbane. The Roosters broke Gold Coast hearts with a thumping 32-6 win, current Titans captain Nate Myles starting in the second row for the Tricolours.
Did You Know? The Titans have only ever played one match at Gosford's Central Coast Stadium, recording a 24-20 win over the Roosters in Round 14, 2009. A double to Sisa Waqa had seen the Roosters fight back from an 18-6 half-time deficit to lead 20-18 before a try two minutes from full-time by Chris Walker got the Titans home.
What Are The Odds? Roosters $1.13, Titans $6. Ever since the Roosters put away the Dragons in Monday Night Football there’s been a big go for them to repeat the dose against the Titans with Sportsbet. The Roosters to win by 13+ has received 80 per cent of the money invested in margin betting. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Gavin Morris. Assistant Referee: Adam Devcich. Touch Judges: Dave Ryan and Tim Roby. Video Referees: Jared Maxwell and Daniel Irvine.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm
How We See It: This could go the way everyone expects. The spirit that has been tested all season at the Titans may finally break and the Roosters' backline laden with representative stars will run roughshod on a sunny Sunday in Gosford. Or something extraordinary could happen. Don't expect the Titans to try to win a grinding encounter; they're going to play football and throw things at the Roosters they aren't expecting. Will it be enough? Probably not, but it will be fun to watch. Roosters by 12.