Neil Henry’s Titans side know they have to increase the intensity of their play against Canberra this Sunday after a victory last night against a Manly side that had four international and an Origin player, including their first-choice halves, missing (Jamie Lyon, Daly Cherry Evans, Steve Matai, Nate Myles and Dylan Walker).
That came after a loss to Parramatta who were missing Kieran Foran and the dangerous Brad Takairangi. So there are no illusions about the step up in quality against a Raiders side that will be smarting from their round two loss to the Titans in Canberra – and have Aidan Sezer keen to hurt his former club.
Yet there were positives to take forward from last night’s 30-10 victory, and stats support that.
The Sea Eagles chanced their arm early in the match and shifted the ball at will, almost crossing twice. However, the first time the Titans raided Manly’s territory came a try through a set move across the ruck to Luke Douglas who scored his 13th NRL try in 252 appearances.
Two more tries followed in the next 12 minutes, all from well executed set-play shifts – the first to the right and the second to the left – involving fullback William Zillman who nailed the final passes to provide a 16-0 lead.
That made it the third straight game in which the Titans scored first and early after being renowned slow starters in the first 10 rounds; they scored in the 13th minute against Souths; twice in the first 12 minutes against Parramatta and three tries in the first 20 minutes against Manly. It is the second half, where the Titans were so strong this season, where they have been less dominant.
The second half, after the Titans took an 18-6 lead into the session and made it 24-6 just two minutes into the half after Ryan James strolled through from a good ball from Nathan Peats at dummy half, was not as impressive.
Yet Henry and assistant Terry Matterson were satisfied with many aspects –the energy, the composure for most of the game that saw the completion rate back up over 80 per cent (but just 74 per cent in the first half), the conversion of set plays from close being converted to tries, and better first contact and wrapping up of the man in defence.
Missed tackles dropped to a season best 16, errors were down to nine from 15 the week before and only six penalties were conceded.
Nathan Peats, who started for the first time, looked more comfortable at dummy half than he had ever been and was very crisp with his passing and floating across to pick up runners, Josh Hoffman continued his excellent recent form – troubling the defence every time he had the ball, grabbing valuable metres when running talking it up in out his own half and defensively he has been strong in recent games.
Zeb Taia continues to prove what a shrewd buy he has been for the Titans and was a valuable contributor again last night, which his stats confirm.
The Raiders will be a whole new proposition on Sunday. One aspect of the past fortnight for the Titans’ defence has been conceding too much territory at times through the middle with big men rolling forward. Canberra, perhaps the biggest pack in the NRL, are the masters of doing that.
It will be the challenge next round.
KEY MATCH STATS
POSSESSION: Titans 53%, Manly 47%
COMPLETION RATE: Titans 82% (31/38), Manly 73% (27/37)
ERRORS: Titans 8, Manly 9.
TACKLES: Titans 337 (missed 16), Manly 349 (missed 26)
OFFLOADS: Titans 15, Manly 14.
LINE BREAKS: Titans 4, Manly 3
PENALTIES: Titans 10-6
TOP TACKLERS: Ryan James 40, Chris McQueen 33, Zeb Taia 30, Nathan Peats 30, Agnatius Paasi 27, Luke Douglas 26
TOP METRE MAKERS: Zeb Taia 168, Ryan James 145, Josh Hoffman 143, Nene Macdonald 137, Luke Douglas 127
HIT-UPS/RUNS: Zeb Taia 20, Ryan James 17, Nene Macdonald 15, Luke Douglas 15, William Zillman 13, Agnatius Paasi 12
TOP MINUTES (forwards): Taia 80, McQueen 80, James 67, Peats 57, Paasi 42, Pettybourne 39, Friend 31, Pulu 24, Simpkins 21