DAVE TAYLOR - NRL ROUND 6 -  GOLD COAST TITANS V BRISBANE BRONCOS AT CBUS SUPER STADIUM, 11th APRIL 2014. This image is for Editorial Use Only. Any further use or individual sale of the image must be cleared by application to the Manager Sports Media Publishing (SMP Images). PHOTO : CHARLES KNIGHT - SMP IMAGES

Pressure to perform a good incentive

The iSelect Titans will go into their third Monday night clash in seven rounds when they travel to the foot of the Blue Mountains for the Easter clash with the Penrith Panthers this evening - and also go into the crucial clash with a confidence and tough attitude emanating from pressure on positions in the side.

That was apparent this week when winger Anthony Don was desperate to play 10 days after suffering a compound dislocation of a finger against Brisbane knowing he had an in-form Kalifa Faifai Loa just as vigorously wanting his first NRL opportunity since joining from the Cowboys this season. Then there is William Zillman, left extremely disappointed at finding scans showed he was not ready to return from a hamstring injury, after watching the winger that gave Don his chance by moving to fullback, David Mead, fire in his spot for the past three weeks.

And Ryan James gets a chance in the 17 after Luke Bailey, outstanding before hurting his ankle in the second half of the Broncos clash, and is primed to make the most of his chance after a shoulder injury has limited his season to just one match (against Canberra in round three) in five after he signed a new contract and was being mentioned by good judges as a NSW State of Origin hopeful in 2014. In his absence, Bailey and Matt White have been in tremendous form off the bench behind starting props Nate Myles and Luke Douglas.

Don trained yesterday and should take his place, although Faifai Loa has travelled with the team.

The depth, and determined attitude since a second round thrashing against Wests Tigers, has seen a real enthusiasm and hunger the ladder-leading squad. The enthusiasm and encouragement at training and preparedness to do ‘extras’ after each session has typified the Titans this season. And it has shown in how they have been winning, and particularly the way they have been defending.

While several statistics, particularly the negative for-and-against average, have been cited by critics in recent weeks, there has been one that has been overlooked. And that is the outside of the Tigers’ loss only 11 tries have been conceded in five games, which is an outstanding effort considering how the game has been played this season with quicker play the balls.

A lot of the pre-match hype has centred around Jamal Idris coming up against the club that agreed to release him in January, and certainly he’ll be a danger man. He has moved to left centre as opposed to the right position he played while at Robina, which means he’ll be charging at the Titans’ right side defence of Don, Brad Takairangi, Albert Kelly and Dave Taylor. The Titans can expect the big centre will try to get one-one-one with Kelly, but the halfback’s defence has been strong and robust this season, typified by the fact he was required to make a team best 40 tackles (according to Big League’s stats) against the Broncos.

“We know what he’s capable of and for us it’s a matter of cutting down his space and not giving him too much room,” said Titans coach John Cartwright said of Idris.

“He’s hard to contain and he’s played some good football for Penrith but I think we have some guys who can contain him,” added co-captain Nate Myles.

A key for the Titans will be their own giant, 119kg powerhouse Taylor, who has been improving with match time and involvement each week and will be a real threat the Penrith's left edge.

Yet the Titans’ preparation has all been about building on the components of the game that has seen them win five of six games, and all three on the road in 2014. This is a pivotal match as they are in Sydney again six days later to play the Tigers at Leichhardt Oval, which has become a fortress, before the representative weekend.

“A long turnaround has been good for us to get over some niggling injuries but we have to be on our game,” said co-captain Nate Myles. “And Penrith will come ready to play after the loss last week against Souths, before that they showed some good form.

 “I’m a big believer in starting well; that’s what we need to build from each game. Attack wise we’re not anywhere near we need to be. We want to go out and improve again because we have improvement in us.

“We’re only at round six and no one can remember who leads a competition after six rounds, so we continue to address the little things at training and ensure we have the right attitude.”

The Panthers have had a win-loss-win-loss sequence since opening the 2014 season with a convincing 30-8 victory against the Knights and their form has certainly been inconsistent, with a 16-point losses to Parramatta and South Sydney in their past three efforts, either side of a 12-6 win against Canberra. All their three wins have been at home which gives them an unbeaten record at Sportingbet Stadium this year.

There are touches of nostalgia around the match with Titans coach John Cartwright playing all of his career at Penrith where his father was the founding club secretary; Paul Carter’s father Steve being the club’s appearance record-holder and Maurice Blair starting his career there. But all that will be forgotten once kick-off comes.

 

Titans

1 David Mead
2 Kevin Gordon
3 Maurice Blair
4 Brad Takairangi
5 Anthony Don
6 Aidan Sezer
7 Albert Kelly
8 Luke Douglas
9 Beau Falloon
10 Nate Myles (c)
11 Greg Bird (c)
12 David Taylor
13 Ashley Harrison

Interchange
14 Matthew White
15 Ryan James
16 Mark Minichiello
17 Paul Carter
Coach: John Cartwright

Panthers

1 Matt Moylan
2 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
3 Dean Whare
4 Jamal Idris
5 Josh Mansour
6 Jamie Soward
7 Peter Wallace (c)
8 Sam McKendry
9 Kevin Kingston (c)
10 Brent Kite
11 Sika Manu
12 Elijah Taylor
13 Adam Docker

Interchange
14 James Segeyaro
15 Jeremy Latimore
16 Tyrone Peachey
17 Tim Grant
Coach: Ivan Cleary