The final fixture before Origin fever hits its peak puts Gold Coast up against North Queensland and if last-round form is anything to go by, it should be a close contest.
The Titans shook off weeks of poor form to dismantle Manly at Brookvale last Friday, then the Cowboys headed to Canberra the next day and held out the Raiders.
But Origin will play a part in how both teams run onto the field.
The Titans will again be without powerhouse lock Jai Arrow, not because of injury this time, but because of Queensland selection. Missing from the Cowboys will be Michael Morgan and Josh McGuire.
Titans: The Titans will start 1-17 after Max King and Will Matthews were omitted an hour before kick-off. Jai Whitbread replaces Jai Arrow with the side boosted by Jarrod Wallace being overlooked for the Maroons. Titans winger Dale Copley has scored six tries in his past three games. Ryley Jacks and Leilani Latu were left out 24 hours before game time.
Cowboys: North Queensland will start 1-17 after Peter Hola and Enari Tuala were dropped 60 minutes before kick-off. Coen Hess returns from a groin injury that forced him to be a late withdrawal against the Raiders. The Cowboys have won their past eight games against the Titans. Emry Pere and Javid Bowen dropped off the reserves 24 hours before kick-off.
Titans five-eighth Tyrone Roberts was outstanding last week with a hand in four of his side's seven tries and an all-round controlling performance. As halfback Ash Taylor works to find form and release the pressure that's mounting on him, Gold Coast need more of that from Roberts if they're to rack up more wins. He has another chance to dominate coming up against a Cowboys side with a playmaker missing in Morgan. Their number six, John Asiata, will be the one with the pressure on him, as he'll need to step up in Morgan's absence. Whichever five-eighth does so the best could bring their team the win.
For the Titans to win
They need to slow the Cowboys' progression through the middle. They're a big pack that can get going, if they can halt their go-forward they should be able to play with the field position to get over the top of them.
For the Cowboys to win
It's about using the ball well at the Titans' end. North Queensland can make the metres to get down the field but it's about the finesse at the end of sets that will allow them to close out more games.
Brett Kimmorley says
The Titans lose their best player in Jai Arrow while the Cowboys still have their best in Jason Taumalolo. We saw Ash Taylor and Tyrone Roberts create some attack last week – they found a spark. Whether that’s enough to turn their season around, I’ll be hesitant to say yes unless I see it consistently. The Cowboys still have enough to win the forward battle – and the game. Cowboys by 2
The head-to-head does not look good for Gold Coast – they haven't beaten North Queensland since March 2014, an eight-game losing run. They last met just a few weeks ago (round eight) when the Cowboys ran out 28-14 winners at 1300SMILES.
And another thing ...
It wasn't a great start to the season for North Queensland, but after a couple of wins the rest of the competition have come within their reach. They know there is plenty of improvement in their game, so there's enough motivation to go out against the Titans and ensure their season gets going. Any team can beat any other in this competition, but it's about having the consistency to string together the wins. Gold Coast need to show they can do that this game.