The Aquis Titans will use the last home game of 2014, a thrilling 19-18 victory over grand final bound Canterbury, as motivation to finish a disappointing season with a third straight home win on the first ‘Old Boys Day’ at Cbus Super Stadium tomorrow.
It was one the club’s best comebacks - and best efforts considering those missing that day included Nate Myles, Greg Bird, Albert Kelly, Luke Douglas, Ben Ridge, Ryan James, Ashley Harrison and Luke Bailey – that saw them strike back from 18-0 at half-time in what was an emotional farewell for the last of the 2007 originals, Mark Minichiello.
There will be club stalwarts missing again in Bird, Ridge, James, William Zillman, Aidan Sezer and possibly Myles who is in doubt with a hand injury.
The scenarios are similar: the Bulldogs were seventh last year for the round 26 clash, the Dragons eighth in 2015; both visiting teams have little injuries issues; and we are again farewelling Titans’ favourites, this time Matt White, Nate Myles, Dave Taylor, Beau Falloon and probably Kalifa Faifai Loa.
And it is a milestone match in that head coach Neil Henry will coach his 200th NRL game; his first was as Raiders’ mentor in round 1 in 2007 four seasons as Graham Murray’s assistant in Townsville.
The Dragons will be tough to beat though. Their halves Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop are in great form, with NSW fullback Josh Dugan benefitting from their touch. And Trent Merrin, who troubled the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium last year, is motivated to finish his time with the Dragons with success.
The Dragons were strong in their 19-12 victory over a Penrith side that played well last round and come off a nine-day turnaround but one advantage the Titans may have now is that Manly’s loss last night means the Dragons only have to win one of their matches against bottom two placed Titans and Wests Tigers to play in the finals.
“It’s important to win at home; we haven’t had enough this season but we’re keen to get some joy for the fans to finish the season, as we did last year,” said prop Luke Douglas.
“The wooden spoon is hanging over our heads too, so that’s definitely a motivation.
“There are a lot of guys who have been here a lot of years and put in a lot of effort and sweat and it will be sad to see them go and I for one am pretty motivated to send them out on a winning note.”
The Titans will run out to a guard of honour of former Titans, Chargers, Seagulls and Giants players who will enjoy a reunion before the match.
HEAD TO HEAD
PLAYED 14; Titans 4, Dragons 10.
TRIES: Titans 69, Dragons 61.
TRIES CONCEDED: Titans 100, Dragons 62.
COMPLETION RATES: Titans 71%, Dragons 77%
MATCH OFFICIALS: Referee: Ashley Klein; Assistant Referee: Gavin Morris; Touch Judges: Michael Wise and Belinda Sleeman; Video Referees: Steve Clark and Luke Patten.
TELEVISED: Channel Nine – 3.30pm (Qld and NSW), kick-off 4.12pm.