Schick Hydro Preview: Gold Coast Titans v Wests Tigers
Cbus Super Stadium
As a footy fan all we really want is to get to August and have our team still in contention to play finals football.
Sure, sitting on top of the table six weeks out with the minor premiership all but wrapped up might be nice too but if as a supporter we can get through the Origin period, shrug clear of some of those winter woollies and eye off a spring-time September celebration we can by and large consider it a successful season.
Unfortunately for Wests Tigers fans that hope evaporated a number of weeks ago but Titans fans can turn up to what should be a sun-drenched Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday afternoon clinging to the last remnants of finals aspirations.
They simply have to win every one of their remaining six games in the regular season to be any chance of featuring in the playoffs and with a recent three-game winning streak and a handy recent record against the Tigers should be confident of completing their first assignment.
Gold Coast have won their past four games against the Tigers and six of their past eight but come into this clash without the services of the hamstrung Konrad Hurrell who has been one of the shining lights for the Titans all season.
Hurrell's place has been taken by John Olive playing just his third game of the season in the top grade while a knee injury to Dale Copley could see some late reshuffling if he is unable to recover in time.
Since going down to the Titans 26-14 in Round 16 the Tigers have shown admirable resilience to continue to push teams entrenched in the top eight despite having nothing to play for as such.
They pushed the Sea Eagles at Brookvale and it took a wobbly Corey Norman field goal for the Eels to beat them last weekend so the Titans can expect to face a team with plenty of resolve on Sunday.
Veteran Chris Lawrence is an important inclusion for the Tigers as is Sauaso Sue who is back from suspension.
Why the Titans can win: One of the Titans' most dangerous weapons is the right boot of Ash Taylor and the Tigers will have needed to do extra homework this week on how to nullify it. With 23 tries from kicks so far this season the Titans are ranked No.1 in the NRL and on the other side of the ledger the Tigers are ranked 12th for tries conceded from kicks with 15. Right winger Anthony Don has become a favoured target for Taylor this season so Malakai Watene-Zelezniak can expect many bombs to be coming his way on Sunday.
Why the Tigers can win: Ranked seventh in the NRL for metres gained per set, the Tigers forwards have shown that they can get their team on the front foot and their propensity to offload makes them a difficult team to defend through the middle. With an average of 11.2 offloads per game the Tigers rank fourth in the NRL this season for promoting the football, the Titans conceding an average of 9.9 offloads per game. If Aaron Woods and Elijah Taylor can provide second-phase play through a Titans' middle third that has been exposed a number of times this season James Tedesco could have a field day.
 Telstra Premiership: Ashley Taylor vs Luke Brooks
Line Breaks, Try Assists, Line Break Assists, Total Kicks.
The history: Played 17; Titans 10, Wests Tigers 7. The Titans boast the superior record and have won six of the 10 games played against the Tigers on the Gold Coast but history suggests that if it's close the visitors might be the ones to triumph. Three of the Tigers' seven wins over the Titans have been by a solitary point with club greats Benji Marshall (Rd 18,2010), Robbie Farah (Rd 9, 2012) and Pat Richards (Rd 1, 2015) coming up with the match-winning plays. Titans fullback Jarryd Hayne has scored 11 tries in 16 games against the Tigers including doubles in two of his past three games.
What are the odds: This is by far the most even betting game of the round, and Wests Tigers have firmed since markets opened. The percentage of money is in the Titans' favour by 55-45 and both sides have been well supported to win by 1-12. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Adam Gee; Assistant Referee: Chris James; Touch Judges: Nick Beashel and Nick Morel; Review Official: Bernard Sutton; Senior RO: Luke Patten.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live from 3.30pm; Fox League – Live from 3.30pm.
NRL.com predicts: Heart-breaking losses for both teams last weekend will have taken some getting over but if the Titans can re-set themselves for another must-win game then they should have the class required to get the better of Wests. The loss of Hurrell means that the Titans have to find energy from other sources on Sunday and against a young Tigers team with nothing to lose they'll have to make sure they are not jumped early. Wests won't hand over the two competition points easily but Gold Coast should finish the better. Titans by 10 points.