Rabbits next target for buoyant Titans
Buoyed by wins over the Roosters and Panthers Titans coach Neil Henry says it is imperative his team makes it three on the trot in order to keep pace with the top eight contenders.
The Titans have the luxury of the bye this weekend but even with an extra two competition points will remain in 10th position on the ladder as the Rabbitohs and Panthers also have the week off leading into Origin I.
Henry is confident that both Tyrone Roberts (cork) and David Shillington (shoulder) will be fit to make the trip to Perth next week while lock forward Greg Bird will head west once his obligations with the New South Wales Origin team are completed.
Installed by bookmakers as overwhelming favourites to finish with the wooden spoon in 2016 at the start of the season, the Titans have been competitive in all but one heavy defeat to the Storm to be in position to push for a long-awaited finals berth.
They face a daunting two week assignment against the Rabbitohs in Perth and then the Eels in Darwin when they return from the bye but Henry says they have taken confidence from their positive results in recent weeks.
"It's a good feeling going into the bye knowing you've got maximum points for a couple of weeks and it puts us in good stead moving into a pretty tough road trip," Henry said.
"We've only had five wins but it's kept us in touch.
"We're coming up to the halfway point of the competition with that game against Souths and you really need to be at least 50 per cent so we need that win to be at 6-6.
"If you can replicate that [in the second half of the season] that gives you a chance of playing finals footy.
"You're only ever a couple of games away from going well or not going well at all so you need to be building your season and you need to be building in consistency of effort on the field and I think we're starting to get that."
There has been no greater example of the growing belief within the Titans' squad than their gutsy all-or-nothing play in the final minutes against Penrith that proved to be the match-winner.
The prudent play when halfback Ashley Taylor swept on a Penrith error and raced down to their 30-metre line with less than three minutes to play would have been to work into centre field for a field goal to break the 24-all deadlock.
But instead a 26-year-old rookie by the name of Leivaha Pulu demanded the ball, ventured down the blind side and threw an inch perfect cut-out pass for Anthony Don to race across and steal victory.
It was an incredibly courageous play for a team that had won just one of its past six games but one Taylor says shows their belief in each other.
"My main goal was to get us towards the posts but Vaha obviously saw something on the short side," man of the match Taylor recalled.
"It's great that he got his hands on the ball and took ownership of the last play and we came away with the win.
"The boys just have a lot of confidence in each other. We're backing our ability now to finish off plays.
"We've trained very hard the last couple of weeks to try and execute our plays and that's shown the last two weeks."
Henry was also ecstatic that unlike in some of their close losses this season, when the Titans were presented with an opportunity last Sunday they made the most of it.
"They got it right. There was an opportunity down the short side but sometimes you just throw it to the other side of the field and you're left asking, 'Why did he go there?'" Henry said.
"We had to take that opportunity. We missed an opportunity against the Bulldogs [in Round 8] where we should have had a good shot at goal and if executed we would have got a field goal and we'd have two points from that game.
"We didn't do it, they went down the other end, they executed and won the game.
"We were chasing points all game but we had the belief that if we stuck to it things could happen late in the game and that we don't give up until the 80th minute."