NRL PREVIEW: v Storm
The Aquis Gold Coast Titans go to AAMI Park today knowing they will face a fired up Melbourne Storm side who will be desperate to retain sixth position with a bunching of teams just below them on the ladder.
The Storm have won only two of their past seven games and will be smarting after the loss to Wests Tigers last weekend but with Test captain Cameron Smith and Queensland Origin hero Cooper Cronk steering the ship, with plenty of international experience around them, they present a tough assignment for then Titans.
Last year’s clash at AAMI Park was a controversial cliff-hanger, with Greg Bird sealing the game with a 78th minute penalty goal and giving the Titans their first win in Melbourne in four visits.
Neil Henry’s side will be after a similar effort, without skipper Nate Myles who will miss the match because of a shoulder injury.
“We go down there with a bit of confidence after the win against the Eels and we beat them down there last year but they are certainly going to be tough,” Henry said.
“They don’t often lose two straight, and are returning home where they are hard to beat. The table is bunched up around sixth to eighth position too so they have plenty to play for.
“They have plenty of danger men, obviously it all starts from Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk and Jesse Bromwich is one of the form front-rowers of the NRL and is the leading forward in the competition when it comes to metres gained, so we have to stand up in the middle.
“With Smith and Cronk calling the shots, they will provide some real challenges for us from short range.
“Smith takes advantage of a misread better than any dummy half in the game and has a short kicking game on the tryline too, and Cronk is a specialist at pulling off set plays and exploiting any indecision in the defence.
“There is probably no better combination in the NRL who can create tries, or repeat sets from close range, and it is an area we have to be better at. Parramatta scored a couple of soft tries from close range – Nathan Peats from dummy half and Bureta Faraimo from 10 metres out when he beat three defenders.
“Morika Koroibete is a real flyer on their left edge and has scored 14 tries this season he will threat to our right side defence, with Tohu Harris providing a big powerful body inside of him.
“On the other side Will Chambers is in great form and genuinely is an Origin player now of real class, so he will be a good test for our young centre Nene Macdonald who will be looking to back up his very solid two-try performance on Monday night.”
While the Storm’s attacking prowess has certainly been dented by the absence of fullback Billy Slater, their defence has been first class with their 53 tries conceded, second to the Roosters’ 42. That will be the key for the Titans, finding a way to break Melbourne’s disciplined defence, but halves Aidan Sezer, in career best form, and rookie Kane Elgey blended well against the Eels hold the responsibility of calling the shots.
HEAD TO HEAD
Played 13; Storm 8, Titans 5.
At AAMI Park Played 4; Storm 3, Titans 1.
TRIES SCORED: Titans 59, Storm 64.
TRIES CONCEDED: Titans 84, Storm 53.
COMPLETION RATES: Titans 72%, Storm 79%.
GOALKICKING: Titans 78%, Storm 78%.
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED: Rd 21, 2014: Storm 24, Titans 20 at Cbus Super Stadium.
Match Officials: Referee: Grant Atkins. Assistant Referee: Chris Sutton. Touch Judges: Rick Macfarlane and David Ryan. Video Referees: Jared Maxwell and Daniel Irvine.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm