The focus has been on the fact the Bulldogs go into this match without five members of the NSW Origin squad and skipper James Graham. However they still field six Test players – four in the pack in Pritchard, Kasiano, Eastwood and Kaufusi – and that’s where the game will be won.
The challenge for the Titans is adjusting to being without rookie halfback Kane Elgey who is among the top try-assist producers in the NRL and three most recognised forwards in Nate Myles (Origin duty), Greg Bird (suspended) and Dave Taylor (dropped).
However, former Bulldogs Lachlan Burr has become more accustomed to NRL demands as each week passes, Ben Ridge is now three games back from his injury lay-off, Luke Douglas has been in very good form, Ryan James will be inspired while captaining the side for the first time and Eddy Pettybourne has proved to be a valuable pick-up for the Titans just before Christmas.
Aidan Sezer has been in career best form in recent weeks and took control after Elgey limped off in the 23rd minute in the 27-20 victory over Wests Tigers and he will be a key against a formidable Bulldogs halves pairing of Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye.
The other key clash will be on the right hand side where recently re-signed James Roberts and Anthony Don, switched from left to right wing two games ago, go up against Curtis Rona who leads the NRL try-scoring with 13 – two ahead of the pair’s 11 - and Chase Stanley who fills in for Josh Morris. Stanley and fullback Sam Perrett (both New Zealand) are the Dogs’ other internationals on show.
“They have a big pack and plenty of pace and class in the backs through Mbye, Reynolds, Sam Perrett, Rona and Lafai and they start games hard so we have to match them early,” said Titans coach Neil Henry.
The Titans completed their sets at a season best 85 per cent against the Tigers and will need to be just as diligent against the Bulldogs.
Sezer trained the final session on Saturday morning and is fit to play and is looking forward to the challenge against his former club where he played under-20s with teammate Lachlan Burr and tomorrow’s opponents Lafai and Kasiano.
HEAD TO HEAD
Played 11: Titans 6, Bulldogs 5.
At Cbus Super Stadium: Played 4; Titans 3, Bulldogs 1.
TRIES SCORED: Bulldogs 46, Titans 44.
TRIES CONCEDED: Bulldogs 47, Titans 51.
COMPLETION RATES: Titans 70%, Bulldogs 75%.
GOALKICKING: Titans 79%, Bulldogs 68%.
MATCH OFFICIALS: Referee: Jared Maxwell. Assistant Referee: Chris James. Touch Judges: Michael Wise and Adam Reid. Video Referees: Steve Clark and Daniel Irvine.
Televised: Channel 9, delayed 6pm.
TITANS: Hoffman, Don, Roberts, Tighe, Mead, Sezer, Mortimer, Douglas, Moseley, Pettybourne, James (capt), Ridge, Burr. Interchange: White, Paasi, Ioane, Robinson, Gordon.
BULLDOGS: S Perrett, Rona, Stanley, Lafai, Thompson, Reynolds, Mbye, Tolman (capt), Lichaa, Kasiano, Eastwood, Pritchard, L Perrett. Fualalo, Kaufusi, Browne, Ese’ese, Phillips, Loko.