Schick Hydro Preview: Gold Coast Titans v Melbourne Storm
Cbus Super Stadium
A Telstra Premiership rematch seven weeks in the making, the Storm arrive on the Gold Coast on the back of a fourth Monday night fixture in the first two months and with an impressive three-from-three record when backing up.
They barely had to break a sweat in demolishing the Warriors 42-0 to round out Anzac Day on Monday while the Titans are trying to forget the heartbreak of a golden point loss to the Bulldogs last Saturday that would have kept them in the top eight.
Gold Coast lock Greg Bird will have a point to prove having been left out of the Kangaroos team to face New Zealand next Friday night and rookie half Cameron Cullen gets another chance to impress with Ashley Taylor still troubled by a rib injury.
The Storm have some injury worries of their own with Young Tonumaipea (knee) and Marika Koroibete (ankle) doubtful of playing despite being named on Tuesday, putting a further strain on the club's stocks of outside backs.
The battle on the edges between the experienced Titans pairing of Chris McQueen and Zeb Taia and the raw power of Storm duo Tohu Harris and Kevin Proctor will be vital. With inexperienced combinations the Titans have looked vulnerable out wide and can ill afford to let the likes of Proctor and Harris run rampant.
With the family-friendly kick-off time of 2pm the Titans are making it a day out for people of all ages with numerous activities to be held inside and outside the stadium in the lead-up to kick-off.
Watch out Titans: For a team whose attack had been ranked equal 11th for points scored heading into Round 8, watching the Storm run rampant against a sub-standard Warriors outfit on Monday night could not have been good viewing for Titans coach Neil Henry. On the back of 56 per cent of possession the Storm rumbled forward for more than 2,000 metres, made an incredible 10 line breaks and 26 tackle breaks, six of which came from fullback Cameron Munster alone. Their captain Cameron Smith laid on three tries and Tohu Harris terrorised the Warriors on the edges with 22 runs for 228 metres. Ranked fourth for points conceded, the Storm's confidence is at its high point for the season to date.
Watch out Storm: He'll be a target for the big Storm back-rowers in defence and matches up against the master tactician in the game today but there has been nothing to suggest in his first two games in the NRL that Titans half Cameron Cullen will be overawed by the occasion. With Ashley Taylor not expected to play due to a rib injury Cullen gets his first start on home soil where there will be plenty of family and friends to cheer his every touch. He scored on debut against the Sharks and laid on the first try of the game for Zeb Taia last weekend against the Bulldogs, his footballing instincts coming to the fore with a crucial 40/20. The Storm may view him as a weakness but he could end up being the Titans' trump card.
Key match-up: David Shillington v Jesse Bromwich. As they showed in devastating fashion against the Warriors on Monday night the Storm are rarely slow out of the blocks and a key driver of their fast starts is prop Jesse Bromwich. One of the premier front-rowers in the game, Bromwich upsets defensive lines with pure power, clever footwork and an abundance of offloads, and it is up to David Shillington to stop him. The former Origin and Test prop has been industrious without being assertive in his first seven games for the Titans but his teammates desperately need some controlled aggression up front to quell the Storm's ability to play across the ad-line. If Bromwich dominates early, the Titans are in trouble.
History: Played 15; Titans 5, Storm 10. Although the overall ledger is lopsided between these two teams the Titans have had success on home soil against the Storm, winning three of the six contests between the two teams on the Gold Coast. Given these teams have often met during the Origin period this will be the first time Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk have played on the Gold Coast since Round 3, 2012 when the Storm were convincing 30-6 victors.
What are the odds? Titans $2.60, Storm $1.50. Two and a half times as much money has been placed on Melbourne compared to Gold Coast however Sportsbet customers don’t see it as a totally one sided game in margin betting. There’s more money on a Storm little win than there is on any other winning margin option although this isn’t the most popular betting game of the round by any stretch. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Grant Atkins. Assistant Referee: Chris James. Touch Judges: Adam Reid and Belinda Sleeman. Review Officials: Bryan Norrie and Jared Maxwell. Senior RO: Luke Patten.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm
How we see it: There were ominous signs that the Storm were clicking into gear on Monday night but the potential loss of both Tonumaipea and Koroibete would be significant. Having won five on the trot previously at home the Titans have dropped their last two and need to desperately arrest a four-game losing streak to keep pace with the top eight. This will be willing, but the class of the Storm in key positions should be enough to get them across the line. Storm by seven points.