The Aquis Titans’ clash in Canberra this evening (4.30pm Qld time) is between two teams that may have surprised critics with their form in the opening three rounds, but not each other.
The Titans were freely tipped as wooden spoon favourites but have won two games from three and competed well for 60 minutes against competition leaders Melbourne. The Raiders were tipped for as fall after losing season starting halves Blake Austin and former Titan Aidan Sezer in the 30-22 first round win against the Panthers. Yet they have proved to be a really adaptable team and are unbeaten going into today’s clash.
Englishman Josh Hodgson, who switches from hooker to spend some time outside of Sam Williams in the halves, leads the Dally M polling on eight points while fellow Brit and NRLK newcomer Elliott Whitehead has been a revelation as a skilful, mobile back-rower/five-eighth.
“Yet they I think they have been really resilient since losing both their halves,” said Titans head coach, Canberra-raised Neil Henry.
“Sam Williams is doing a great job of controlling their kicking game and they have Englishmen Hodgson and Whitehead, a back-rower with a lot of skill, sharing the other position in the halves - and very effectively.
“We certainly realise what a big challenge we face.
“Like us, they are keen to develop that fortress mentality at GIO Stadium after a three wins-nine losses record in 2015, and they’ve begun, as we have, with two home wins.
“They have a big mobile forward pack that has been in great form with Shannon Boyd, Paul Vaughan, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Jeff Lima up front and Josh Papalii, Iosia Soliola real dangers on the edges and a workaholic with skill, Shaun Fensom, at lock.
“We know we have to start better defensively than we did against Wests Raiders [who led 10-0 after 15 minutes last weekend] when we allowed them to roll up the field and get good field position early in the game.”
The Aquis Titans have lost skipper Nathan Friend who has been stood down as a precautionary measure after copping a couple of head knocks in the first three rounds.
Keirran Moseley (pictured) comes into the 17 as his replacement. Eddy Pettybourne, chosen as 18th man, will drop back to the Intrust Super Cup and play for Burleigh Bears against Mackay Cutters today.
The Aquis Titans team is: David Mead, Anthony Don, Josh Hoffman, John Olive, Nene Macdonald, Tyrone Roberts, Ashley Taylor, David Shillington, Daniel Mortimer, Agnatius Paasi, Zeb Taia, Chris McQueen, Greg Bird. Interchange: Luke Douglas, Ryan James, Leivaha Pulu, Kierran Moseley. Ryan Simpkins (18th).
Raiders: Jack Wighton, Edrick Lee, Jarrod Croker (c), Brenko Lee, Jordan Rapana, Elliott Whitehead, Sam Williams, Shannon Boyd, Josh Hodgson, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Josh Papalii, Sia Soliola, Shaun Fensom. Interchange: Kurt Baptiste, Joe Tapine, Paul Vaughan, Jeff Lima.
HEAD TO HEAD
Played 17: Titans 10 wins, Raiders 7.
At GIO Stadium: Played 8 – Titans 3, Raiders 5.
Completions: Titans 79%, Raiders 74%
Tries scored: Titans 13, Raiders 13
Tries conceded: Titans 12, Raiders 11
Goalkicking: Titans 86%, Raiders 65%
Past 5 results:
2015 – Titans 28-12 at Cbus Super, Raiders 56-16 at GIO Stadium
2014 – Raiders 36-20 at Cbus Super, Titans 24-12 at GIO Stadium
2013 – Titans 36-0 at Skilled
2012 – Titans 38-26 at Canberra Stadium, Raiders 24-12 at Skilled