There is no surprise about what the Aquis Titans’ major focus will be when they take on Canterbury Bulldogs tomorrow – not concede early tries and get into the grind.
The Titans have concede the first try, inside the opening nine minutes of the match, in the past six games. They have still managed to win two of the games and three of the other four were lost by eight points (Broncos), five points (Sharks) and five points (Dragons).
That shows the character and confidence of the team to fight back but the Bulldogs are one side who thrive on early momentum and it is crucial the Titans start with them.
The Titans’ completion rates have been a vast improvement on the previous season, with an average of 79 per cent (and a high of 84 per cent), equal second with the Bulldogs and just one per cent behind the Broncos. Defensively, missed tackle counts have been better too and generally there has been a real resilience on the try-line but a lapse in defensive reads has been costly.
That has seen 20 of the 27 tries conceded scored from within 20 metres. It’s where a lot of work has been done in recent weeks.
“We know we have to start better than we have been and get into the grind early with the Bulldogs,” said coach Neil Henry. “They can make you pay, as they showed against Souths in round four, they started strongly and were never headed in a 42-12 victory.
“We can’t afford them to get a roll on. We’ve been consistently completing our sets at over 80 per cent and in the second half last weekend [against the Dragons] we were particularly good in that area in the second half and didn’t concede a try, so we just have to not be in the position of chasing points.
“The Bulldogs are a big side with plenty of big match experience, in the forwards especially where they are led by the English Test captain James Graham and have internationals in Josh Jackson, Tony Williams, David Klemmer, Greg Eastwood and Sam Kasiano.
“We know how tough an assignment we face but our forwards have matched their opponents this season and this is just another challenge for them.”
The Titans have been hit with the late withdrawal of halfback Ash Taylor but his replacement Cameron Cullen had an impressive debut against the Sharks in round six and is looking forward to the opportunity. He and Tyrone Roberts face a quality halves pairing in Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbe.
Titans (9th) v Bulldogs (6th) @ ANZ Stadium, 3pm Saturday
Referees: Ashley Klein and Chris James
TV/Radio: Fox Sports, ABC and Triple M
HEAD TO HEAD
Played 13: Titans 7 win, Bulldogs 6.
At ANZ Stadium: Played 2 – Bulldogs 1 win, Titans 1.
Completions: Titans 79%, Bulldogs 79%
Tries scored: Titans 25, Bulldogs 26
Tries conceded: Titans 27, Bulldogs 18
Goalkicking: Titans 89%, Bulldogs 67%
Past 5 results:
2015 – Bulldogs 36-14 at Central Coast Stadium, Titans 28-14 at Cbus Super
2014 – Titans 19-18 at Cbus Super, Bulldogs 19-18 at Cbus Super
2013 – Titans 26-16 at ANZ Stadium
2012 – Titans 25-14 at Suncorp, Bullogs 30-20 at Skilled
Aquis Titans: Will Zillman (capt), Anthony Don, Josh Hoffman, Nene Macdonald, David Mead, Cameron Cullen, Tyrone Roberts, David Shillington, Nathan Friend (capt), Ryan James, Zeb Taia, Chris McQueen, Greg Bird. Interchange: Luke Douglas, Leivaha Pulu, Agnatius Paasi, Kierran Moseley.
Bulldogs: Will Hopoate, Curtis Rona, Josh Morris, Kerrod Holland, Sam Perrett, Josh Reynolds, Moses Mbye, Aidan Tolman, Michael Lichaa, James Graham (capt), Josh Jackson, Tony Williams, Greg Eastwood. Interchange: Sam Kasiano, Tim Browne, David Klemmer, Adam Elliott.