Coach Neil Henry and his team won’t be bothered by statistics and history when they enter the always much-awaited local derby with the Brisbane Broncos at Cbus Super Stadium tonight – and neither will his Broncos opponent Wayne Bennett.
Bennett alerted to it in his Captain’s Run media conference yesterday when he said: “They've been through hell and back with all the turmoil they've had down there. If you look at their results they've only been beaten once by a good scoreboard (40-0 against the Panthers in round 2).
“They've won one and the rest have been losses by a field goal (v Wests Tigers) and by two points (v Newcastle Knights) against teams that have been going all right. Newcastle are top of the competition right now so we'd be fools to go down there and underestimate what they've got. So that won't be happening."
Neither side under-estimates the other in this derby clash. Tonight’s will be the 18th and while the Broncos have won 12 to the Titans’ five, Gold Coast have won two of the past three at home and are determined to make it three from four against a Broncos side that has been hit by injury but will field a confident, well-drilled team that have been making few errors and been physical and consistent.
Henry has said it enough in recent weeks but knows the words have to turn into deeds tonight – ball control has to be better. It has cost them, with certainly some refereeing calls, two within-reach victories against the Tigers and Knights. His side could have quite easily gone into this game with a three-from-four record like their opponents.
The Titans have completed their sets at an average of just 65 per cent this season, the worst in the NRL (the Warriors and Tigers are next at 69 per cent). They showed better composure to shut out the last five minutes of the match against the Sharks after a James Roberts intercept try when simple dropped balls or poor kicks cost them games in the same period in rounds one and three.
"We know that the Broncos had a very high completion rate against the Warriors at 88 per cent,” said Henry. “They only made five errors in the whole game. That's tremendous and if they turn up here and do the same thing, only have three or four errors in 80 minutes of footy, and we can't match that with our ball control then we're going to be tanking with our defence. That's an area of concern for us, we need to be mindful of getting that ball control better.”
Henry doesn’t want to overplay the emphasis of a victory tonight and the need to break a very poor home record, as it is only round 5 and his side has only put in one half hour of football during which they haven’t competed despite being having only one victory. It is improvement and composure under pressure that he want to see, and build from.
The stats don’t lie, however. The Titans have won only one home game in 11 matches – and that was a 19-18 golden-point victory against grand final bound Canterbury in the last round of 2015. However, during a period where several key players have been missing, seven of those 10 losses have been by eight points or less – and three by two points or less. In fact, the last three games at Cbus Super Stadium have been decided by a goal or field goal.
There will be some fascinating individual clashes tonight including in the halves where former NYC player of the years, rookie Kane Elgey and international of 2014 Ben Hunt, will be key playmakers; Test teammates Greg Bird v Corey Parker at lock; Queensland Origin makes Nate Myles v Sam Thaiday (if he plays, there is speculation he’s in doubt) in the front row; Queensland Origin players Dave Taylor and Matt Gillett in the second row, as both are players who can make a try from nothing close to the line, and attacking trumps in Josh Hoffman and Anthony Milford who have had few opportunities this season but can crack a game open at any time.
TITANS: Hoffman, Don, Roberts, Zillman, Mead, Sezer, Elgey, Douglas, Moseley, Myles (capt), James, Taylor, Bird. Interchange (from): Pettybourne, Paasi, Simpkins, Srama, Burr, White.
BRONCOS: Maranta, Oates, Reed, Copley, Vidot, Milford, Hunt, McGuire, McCullough, Thaiday, Glenn, Gillett, Parker (capt). Interchange: Wallace, Garbutt, Dodds, Nikorima.
Kick-off: 7.35pm at Cbus Super Stadium.
Referees: Ashley Klein, Alan Shortall. Video refs: Steve Clark, Ben Galea.
Head to head: Played 17 – Broncos won 12, Titans 5.
At Cbus Super Stadium: Played 8 – Titans 4, Broncos 4.
Form: Broncos 3 from 4, Titans 1 from 4.
Tries for/against: Broncos 15/12, Titans 10/17
Average completions: Broncos 76%, Titans 65%