Titans v Knights: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro Preview: Gold Coast Titans v Newcastle Knights
Cbus Super Stadium
Saturday, 3pm

The 'Halfback Shuffle' is a move that both these teams have been busy learning the past fortnight but while it is a familiar dance step for the Titans pairing of Ash Taylor and Tyrone Roberts the Knights are stepping out with another new duo this Saturday.

Captain Trent Hodkinson was a surprise omission from the Newcastle team that went down to the Cowboys last week where Sione Mata'utia was an even greater shock as coach Nathan Brown's choice to replace him.

For 40 minutes it looked like a masterstroke but while Hodkinson has again been overlooked, Brown has this week turned to a more recognised playmaker in Nerang Roosters junior Jaelen Feeney, who made his NRL debut at fullback against the Titans in Round 1 last year.

The Titans unveiled a different halves pairing for their Round 8 clash with the Sharks last weekend and given their history together and the 16-12 victory in Cronulla they have again been preferred with Kane Elgey to return from the bench.

The combination of Taylor and Roberts was credited for much of the Titans' success last season and if their team can continue their winning ways the challenge for Elgey to regain his starting spot will only become greater.

Although the team looks more settled than it has in many weeks the Titans have lost Dale Copley (rib), Chris Grevsmuhl (shoulder) and Karl Lawton (hamstring) from the team that knocked over Cronulla with Dan Sarginson returning to the left centre position, Paterika Vaivai added to the bench and Elgey taking Lawton's place on the bench.

Along with Feeney starting at halfback and Mata'utia returning to the second row the Knights are without hard-working back-rower Mitchell Barnett due to injury with Luke Yates coming in to start at lock and Englishman Joe Wardle added to the bench.

Why the Titans can win: For the first time this year the Titans put close to their best side on the park last weekend and the result was a win against the defending premiers on their home turf. Hayne's class was evident, Proctor was solid on the right, Peats probed around the middle and Hurrell hurled himself into the Sharks defence. The reunion of Ash Taylor and Tyrone Roberts in the halves worked a treat and a win against the Knights this week will have them believing they can go on a run after the representative round is completed.

Why the Knights can win: They've done it before this season and when it comes to a Knights team big on effort but low on competition points that has to count for something. On the back of an encouraging first up performance against the Warriors the Knights gave their loyal fans something to cheer about in Round 2 and must now bring that same energy to the Gold Coast. The task is a tough one backing up from a trip to Townsville seven days prior but if they can recapture that winning feeling this week they'll once again be right in the contest.

Key match-up: Tyrone Roberts v Brock Lamb (try assists, run metres, LBA, tackle breaks)

 


History: Played 17; Titans 7; Knights 10. A re-match seven weeks in the making after the Knights fought back late to snare their only win of the season to date in Round 2 to the tune of 34-26 in Newcastle. It was Newcastle's third win in their past five meetings with the Titans and they have been victorious four times in their seven previous games at Robina. Narrow results are rare between the Titans and Knights with the average winning margin in their past 10 meetings 18.4 points.

What are the odds: Titans $1.25, Knights $4. There have actually been more individual bets on Newcastle, with Sportsbet punters clearly loving the big price available. However, the bigger bets are on the Titans and Gold Coast 13+ is the most popular winning margin option. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au. http://sportsbet.com.au

Match officials: Referee: Dave Munro; Assistant Referee: Alan Shortall; Touch Judges: Dave Ryan and Nick Morel; Review Official: Ben Galea; Senior RO: Jared Maxwell.

Televised: Fox League – Live from 2.30pm.

NRL.com predicts: While far from perfect against the Sharks, the Titans of Round 8 looked on paper and on the field looked much more like the team many predicted would be top eight contenders in 2017. With a near full complement of players each Titan was able to concentrate solely on their role and the result was a much better collective performance. The Knights may have given the Cowboys a fright last week but backing up for a second Queensland trip in as many weeks shapes as a daunting assignment. Titans by 12 points.