Schick Hydro Preview: Gold Coast Titans v North Queensland Cowboys
Cbus Super Stadium
Saturday, 8.05pm (AEST)
Two teams who are down on troops but will believe the 17 they are putting on the park on Saturday night are more than capable of coming away with the two competition points.
The home side have been bolstered by the inclusions of both Dale Copley and Daniel Vidot to make their club debuts in the outside backs while the Cowboys have handed an NRL debut to try-scoring phenomenon Gideon Gela-Mosby on the wing to replace the injured Justin O'Neill.
In many respects these two teams are still trying to work themselves out and build combinations.
The Titans will have seven players in action on Saturday night who have made their club debuts this season and the completely new centre-wing combination of Copley and Vidot will no doubt receive a thorough examination from Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan.
For the second week in a row the Cowboys must work out a way to win without the influence of Matt Scott and Jason Taumalolo. While Taumalolo will return from suspension in Round 5 the loss of Scott is a permanent one for 2017 and puts a further strain on the front row rotation.
Interestingly, the Cowboys had by far the lion's share of possession against Manly last weekend but could only crack their line once through a try from Jake Granville at close range.
The Titans had 53 per cent of the ball against the Eels and competed at 82 per cent, the formula they need to replicate to record their second win of the year.
Why the Titans can win: They may have only recorded the one win to date but the Titans have shown an ability to score points in each of their three games, something the Cowboys struggled to do last weekend. The Titans are averaging four tries and 23.3 points per game compared to 2.7 tries and 16.3 points for the Cowboys and with Gideon Gela-Mosby on debut and two big wingers to target in Daniel Vidot and Tyronne Roberts-Davis the attacking kicking game of Ash Taylor will be a potent weapon in what is likely to be greasy conditions.
Why the Cowboys can win: It's unlikely that Johnathan Thurston will come up with as few try-scoring plays as he did against Manly and if his team can continue completing at 80 per cent and averaging 54 per cent of possession as they have in the first three weeks the Titans will find themselves under all sorts of pressure. Kalyn Ponga is likely to feel more at home in his second game at fullback so the Titans will need an excellent kick-chase in order to keep him in check.
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Minutes Played, Hit Ups, All Run Metres, Tackles.
History: Played 17; Titans 8, Cowboys 9. Although the ledger looks fairly level the Titans have only won one of their past five clashes against North Queensland, a 13-12 victory in Round 4, 2014 that was sealed by an Aidan Sezer field goal 11 minutes from full-time. The Cowboys have won only three games from eight previous visits to the Gold Coast and haven't won at Robina since a 28-20 victory in Round 20, 2011 minus Johnathan Thurston.
What are the odds: Titans $2.35, Cowboys $1.60. Sportsbet has taken twice the number of bets on North Queensland but the bigger bets have all been on Gold Coast. Chris McQueen has always been one of the best-backed forwards in the first try-scorer market and this week is no exception. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Grant Atkins; Assistant Referee: Matt Noyen; Touch Judges: Russell Turner and Michael Gordon; Review Official: Jared Maxwell; Senior RO: Luke Patten.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live from 9pm (AEDT)
NRL.com predicts: There's no question there will be an intensely focused and determined Cowboys outfit that makes the trip south this weekend and if their forwards can give Thurston a dominant platform they could have the Titans on the hop early. But Gold Coast showed great spirit to fight back from 12-0 down to roll Parramatta last weekend and that jolt of confidence should be enough to convince them they can make it two on the trot. Titans by four points.