MATCH PREVIEW: Titans (11th) v Panthers (8th)
The Aquis Gold Coast Titans know what task lies ahead at Pepper Stadium today against a Penrith side that has certainly hit form.
The Panthers have won four of their past six encounters with the two losses coming against the top three rated sides Cronulla (20-18 in round 8) and North Queensland (23-18 in round 6). And in round three they beat second-placed Brisbane 23-22.
That makes them as consistent as any team in the competition and the Titans know they have to improve on perhaps their best 80-minute effort against Sydney Roosters on Monday night to come away from the foot of the Blue Mountains with a victory.
“The Panthers have won three of their last four games and play an entertaining style of football with plenty of ball movement, so they are very tough opposition,” said coach Neil Henry.
“Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak form a very potent back three while Bryce Cartwright and Trent Merrin have dangerous offloads and are being touted as possible NSW Origin selections. Jamie Soward has one of the most effective kicking games in the NRL, so we will need to work hard to shut them down and apply plenty of pressure on Soward's kicking game.”
The Titans have lost prop David Shillington due to a shoulder injury picked up late in the victory over the Roosters, and Eddy Pettybourne and Nathaniel Peteru travelled with the team to Sydney, with one of them coming into the 17.
Nene Macdonald will come onto the wing for the injured David Mead, and he will be keen to impress after his fine performance for PNG in their Test win against Fiji.
The Titans are aware particularly of Cartwright’s threat on the Panthers’ right side where his offloading skill and ability to get outside his defence and create opportunities for outside backs has been a feature of the Panthers’ play this season. However, Peter Hiku, with 20, has made more offloads than Cartwright this season and is an underrated danger.
Against them is a player whose contribution this season has also somewhat been underrated on the left edge in Penrith junior Zeb Taia (pictured) who will play on Cartwright’s side. Taia has been a mainstay of the Titans attack with his direct hole running and has also been one of the team’s most effective and busiest defenders.
Kick-off: Pepper Stadium 2pm
Referee: Henry Perenara. Assistant referee: Chris James
TV: Fox Sports (live)
RADIO: 2GB, ABC
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 13; Panthers 8 wins, Titans 5.
AT PEPPER STADIUM: Played 5; Panthers 3, Titans 2
COMPLETIONS: Panthers 77%, Titans 78%
TRIES SCORED: Panthers 33, Titans 32
TRIES CONCEDED: Panthers 33, Titans 39
GOALKICKING: Panthers 74%, Titans 90%
LAST SIX CLASHES:
2015 – Titans 32-6 at Cbus Super, Panthers 40-0 at Carrington Park
2014 – Panthers 36-14 at Cbus Super, Panthers 14-12 at Sportingbet Stadium
2013 – Panthers 40-18 at TIO Stadium (Darwin), Titans 28-10 at Centrebet Stadium
TITANS: 1 William Zillman (capt), 2 Anthony Don, 3 Josh Hoffman, 4 Nathan Davis, 5 Nene Macdonald, 6 Tyrone Roberts, 7 Ash Taylor, 9 Nathan Friend (capt), 10 Ryan James, 11 Zeb Taia, 12 Chris McQueen, 13 Greg Bird, 14 Luke Douglas, 15 Leivaha Pulu, 16 Agnatius Paasi, 17 Nathan Peats, 18 Eddy Pettybourne, 20 Nate Peteru.
PENRITH: 1 Matt Moylan (capt), 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Tyrone Peachey, 4 Peta Hiku, 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6 Jamie Soward, 7 Peter Wallace, 8 Sam McKendry, 9 James Segeyaro, 10 Regan Campbell-Gillard, 11 Bryce Cartwright, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 Trent Merrin, 14 Suaia Matagi, 15 Jeremy Latimore, 16 Lelani Latu, 18 James Fisher-Harris.