Titans challenged to maintain momentum
Titans coach Neil Henry has challenged his players to complete a clean sweep of their cross-country road trip and carry the momentum of a three-game winning streak into an unexpected finals appearance in 2016.
The Titans have not won more than four games in succession since their last finals appearance in 2010 and after their thrilling golden point win over the Rabbitohs in Perth on Sunday enter the second half of the season in the top eight for only the second time in the past five years.
They are facts that count for nothing if you don't go on to play finals football in September but with a game against an injury-ravaged Eels outfit on Saturday and then home games against the Sea Eagles and Raiders to follow, the favourites for the wooden spoon at the start of the season have an opportunity if they are good enough.
Having led the Rabbitohs 18-0 early in the second half and 28-22 with two minutes left to play, Henry knows the devastating effect another narrow loss could have had on his team but says they must now take that belief forward into the coming weeks.
"It's a massive swing, winning or losing one of those games, those one-point games, and I'm just glad we're on the winning side of it," Henry said.
"That win was important, that we could prove to ourselves that we could string a few together.
"We've done three now and it will be a tough game next week in Darwin against Parramatta but at least we're starting to trust each other with what we're trying to do out there and building a bit of confidence."
Lock forward Greg Bird, who backed up after Origin I to run for 155 metres, make five tackle busts and 24 tackles, said that having been in fifth position this time three years ago before missing the eight at the end of the year, confidence in the team to win the close ones will be vital as the season unfolds.
"It's great [to be in the top eight] but at the end of the day we've been here before and missed out on the eight," Bird said.
"We've got to keep fighting and keep improving and keep winning games. If we keep playing the way we did [against Souths] we can win some and lose some but we need to improve on that to be able to close games out.
"We've lost so many in that fashion. We've been on the wrong end of a lot of nail-biters this year.
"Other than that Melbourne game through that five-week stretch we were on the wrong side of a few of those results and now we've been on the right side of a couple of them.
"The Penrith game was a nail-biter and then this game where you can get confidence that you can win it when it gets tough.
"You get into the grind and then do what needs to be done to win the game."
Although he admitted to "throwing a few bottles" around the coaches box when Adam Reynolds' ultimately disallowed field goal snuck over the crossbar, Henry praised the resilience his team has displayed not only on Sunday but for the first 13 weeks of the season.
"We're trying to improve what we're doing and get some consistency about what we're doing and apart from the Melbourne game we've been in contests for the whole year," said Henry.
"This team is pretty resilient and they've been able to stay in games for half a season, bar one game. That's a credit to them and that will turn into wins if we can close games out or build on that and the boys are determined to turn up each week."
In terms of injury concerns Henry said that Nathan Peats was being troubled by an elbow injury but expects him to line up against his former club on Saturday night.