Crunch time has come early for the Tigers. Thrashed by the Raiders a fortnight ago, the Wests Tigers struggled without Benji Marshall and Josh Reynolds and looked a lot like the bottom eight team almost everyone tipped them to be at the start of the season.
The loss left them in 10th spot with a 7-8 record and everyone is waiting to see if it was a one-off or pretty much what we can expect from the Tigers for the rest of the season.
Playing at their spiritual home Leichhardt Oval on Sunday should give them a lift, but they will definitely lose if they go in thinking their opponents will be pushovers.
The Titans are 11th on the ladder with five wins from 14 games, though they showed with the round 15 road win over the Bulldogs that they can't be taken lightly. Coach Garth Brennan appears to have finally settled on a 17-man team he can rely on and the players look like they're not second-guessing themselves as much anymore.
The Titans are capable of playing a spoiler role in the run to the play-offs.
Key match-up: Moses Mbye is tipped to make his debut in Tigers colours and should add an exciting new dimension to the Tigers' attack. There's probably not too much Ivan Cleary can drum into Mbye in terms of the team playbook so the former Bulldogs fullback will probably just play it by ear. The Titans are hoping their own fullback Michael Gordon emulates his round 15 man of the match performance against the Bulldogs.
For the Tigers to win: Benji Marshall is sidelined for another week or two and Josh Reynolds is no certainty to return from a hamstring injury, leaving Luke Brooks to shoulder most of the playmaking duties. Brooks will be hoping Mbye and Tigers returnee Robbie Farah can help ease his load.
For the Titans to win: Based on the Tigers' insipid round 15 effort against the Raiders, the Titans should look to dominate up front. They punched regular holes in the middle and on the edges of Canterbury's defence and should try similar tactics against the Tigers. Brennan also needs an inspired performance from his inconsistent backs.
Tigers Stat Attack: The club will be aiming for their 200th victory in the history of the joint venture at Leichhardt Oval. The Tigers joined the NRL in 2000.
Titans Stat Attack: Gold Coast have the advantage coming into this match having won four of their past five games against the Tigers.
And another thing: Mid-season Tigers signings Mbye and Farah will be part of a rare rugby league milestone against the Titans. Mbye's last game for the Bulldogs was against the Titans a fortnight ago while Farah's final game for the Rabbitohs was also against the Titans three weeks ago. Tigers coach Ivan Cleary might have a word to his new recruits this week for some inside information.
Match: Wests Tigers v Titans
Round 16 -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
- LIVE PASS
Wests Tigers v Gold Coast Titans, Sunday 2pm at Leichhardt Oval
Wests Tigers: 1 Moses Mbye, 2 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Kevin Naiqama, 5 Corey Thompson, 6 Josh Reynolds, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer (c), 9 Robbie Farah, 14 Alex Twal, 11 Chris Lawrence, 21 Chris McQueen, 13 Elijah Taylor
Interchange: 12 Josh Aloiai,15 Suaso Sue, 16 Michael Chee Kam, 17 Matt Eisenhuth
In a late change, Chris McQueen will make his first start for the club, with Josh Aloiai dropping back to the bench. In other news an hour before kick-off, Tyson Gamble and Robbie Rochow were the last two omitted from the squad. Ben Matulino was ruled out on Saturday, replaced at prop by Alex Twal. New recruits Robbie Farah and Moses Mbye start at hooker and fullback respectively. Mahe Fonua (broken arm) is out with Kevin Naiqama shifting into centre and Corey Thompson moving from fullback to wing. Josh Reynolds (shoulder) returns at five-eighth. Tim Grant was dropped from the initial squad on Saturday afternoon.
Titans: 1 Michael Gordon, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Dale Copley, 4 Brenko Lee, 5 Phillip Sami, 6 AJ Brimson, 7 Ashley Taylor, 8 Jarrod Wallace, 9 Nathan Peats, 10 Ryan James (c), 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Keegan Hipgrave, 13 Jai Arrow
Interchange: 14 Mitch Rein, 15 Will Matthews, 16 Moeaki Fotuaika, 17 Jack Stockwell
The Titans will start 1-17 after Morgan Boyle, Konrad Hurrell and Leilani Latu were left out an hour from kick-off. Jarrod Wallace returns from suspension at prop, pushing Jack Stockwell to the bench and Morgan Boyle to the reserves. Bryce Cartwright and Kane Elgey dropped off the reserves list on Saturday.
Head-to-head: Played 19; Titans 11 wins, Wests Tigers 8 wins
Matches at venue: Played 3; Titans 2 wins, Wests Tigers 1 win
Previous result: Wests Tigers won 26-4 at Cbus Super Stadium in round 21
Points per game: Wests Tigers 15.3; Titans 19.0
Points conceded per game: Wests Tigers 17.7; Titans 25.4
Televised: Live on Fox League
Steve Turner's prediction: It's a new-look Tigers this weekend, with Moses Mbye's first outing in his new colours and the return of Robbie Farah. The two additions will provide plenty of options in attack for the Tigers and provide much needed help for Luke Brooks. The Titans come into the fixture with plenty of confidence after their impressive win over the Bulldogs. Ash Taylor and AJ Brimson have been impressive and their partnership will only get better. They will be up against on Sunday the Gold Coast, but the only way to shut the crowd out is score more points and worry about themselves.
TIP: Tigers by 4