Cowboys wary of Titans' ad-lib football
The North Queensland Cowboys may have won the last time they clashed with the Gold Coast Titans, but the experience of that 32-26 victory has left them wary of the Titans' ability to score points.
The Titans ability to create second-phase play and work down the field has come into sharp focus this week for the Cowboys.
In their previous meeting in Round 4 the Titans scored two of their tries off offloads and worried the Cowboys in the middle of the field throughout the game - an area where other teams, especially the Wests Tigers in Round 5, found success against North Queensland at home.
The Titans will be more dangerous in Round 13 than they were more than two months ago due to the return of key players including Jarryd Hayne, but the Cowboys will have Lachlan Coote and Jake Granville back although Johnathan Thurston is still unlikely to play.
"[We need to] be ready for anything, I think they're high on offloads and their individual players can create something from nothing so I think it's just about us being focussed on every set," Coote said.
"Ash Taylor is doing a great job of getting around the park and with their last plays he's been good as well so we've really got to work on him and put some pressure on him."
Much of the responsibility for denying the Titans any second-phase play will fall on the shoulders of the Cowboys forwards, and wrapping the ball up in the tackles is a crucial aspect of denying the Titans any space to work with.
Interchange second-rower Coen Hess will be one of the men responsible for denying the Titans' opportunities before they appear, and he'll have his work cut out for him when he enters the fray, most likely in the back-end of the first half when the Cowboys are working under fatigue.
"Last time we played them they scored off a few late offloads so that's certainly something we can focus on just wrapping that ball up, stopping that second phase footy that they really benefit from," Hess said.
"Our last plays as well as theirs there's always stuff for us big boys to be doing in the middle, whether it's blocking people running through or blocking the kick pressures. You never really stop working until you've got the ball back."