The Northern Rivers Titans have been undefeated throughout the Andrew Johns Cup tournament but Penrith Panthers Coach David Mackinnon is hoping his team can end the Titans winning streak in their Semi-Finals clash on Sunday.
Panthers Coach David Mackinnon says his side has improved in the right areas since their Round Three win over the GSR Wests Tigers and backed it up with wins over Riverina and Monaro.
“The boys have really responded to all the feedback we’ve given them and made some big improvements, particularly in our defence so that’s been really positive,” Mackinnon said.
Mackinnon admitted he has watched the Northern Rivers Titan’s games and been thoroughly impressed with their skillset; he will be relying on his middle forwards to aim up against their opponents on Sunday.
“They’re extremely impressive, I don’t think we’ve come up against an opposition of this quality since Round One when we played the Western Rams.
“This Northern Rivers team, they’ll be on par if not better than Western so we know we’ll have to be on our absolute A-game to compete with them.
“They’ve obviously got a big forward pack so I’m going to be expecting my middle forwards like Connor Puru and Bonamarie Taiki to really step up.”
Penrith trained on Monday and will train again on Thursday and Mackinnon says there is an air of anticipation around, the players can’t wait to travel up to Forster on the weekend.
“The boys are super excited, they’ve been buzzing at training all week and they’re super keen to get up to Forster.
“We set ourselves a goal to hopefully make the Finals and we did that so I’m very proud of the team.”
The Northern Rivers Titans boast one of the best attacks in the competition and have only had 18 points scored against them in five rounds but their Coach Shaun Davison believes his side is yet to reach their full potential.
“We’ve been brilliant at times but we’ve been clumsy at other times,” Davison said.
“I don’t think we’ve put a full performance together yet.
“We said at the start of the campaign we really wanted to focus on consistency so we haven’t been where we want to be with that even though we’ve been having good wins.”
The Northern Rivers have a newly-formed partnership with the Gold Coast Titans, which provides a valuable representative development pathway and Davison believes this partnership, along with the playing group have created a positive winning environment.
“I’m really enjoying being part of this program, it’s been great having the Gold Coast Titans on board with the new partnership.
“I’ve got brilliant support staff around me, my two assistant coaches, trainers, manager – everyone has been fantastic and the boys just top it off.
“They’re always excited and there is a lot of energy in the group – they bring that with them on travel days; it’s just good to be around and they’re a good core group of players.”
Davison says his side has always put the focus on themselves and what they can do right but will be prepared for an accomplished Penrith team on Sunday.
“We have watched video of their games and are fully aware they’re going to be a strong side so we need to prepare for a solid Penrith outfit that have been improving every game.
“We are fully focused and ready to go; well look at what’s next and if its success then we get ready for the week after but if not we’ll cop that on the chin – no excuses.”
The Northern Rivers Titans v Penrith Panthers Semi-Finals Match will take place at Harry Elliott Oval, Forster on Sunday 31st March and will be live streamed via the CRL Facebook Page.