The St George-Illawarra Dragons host the Gold Coast Titans at Jubilee Oval in what is a must-win match for both sides.
The Dragons and Titans weren’t expected to be participants in finals football but with the teams sitting 8th and 9th respectively, the victor on Friday night will be one step closer to that goal.
LAST TIME OUT
Coming off the back of consecutive wins, the Dragons travelled to Brookvale Oval to face a side that hadn’t won in their previous seven matches. However, Manly scored seven tries against Paul McGregor’s men in a 36-6 win. A late try to Dugan put the Red V on the scoreboard, but the result was never in doubt. McGregor will be hoping for a strong performance against the Titans this week after his team had the bye for round 18.
The bye couldn’t have come at a better time for the Titans whose finals aspirations had taken a nose dive in recent weeks. The Titans have lost three of their last four matches as injuries started taking their toll. In round 17 the Titans were beaten 27-18 by a resurgent Warriors outfit led by Shaun Johnson. Centre Karl Lawton was injured in the early minutes of the game in what was his NRL debut and his name on the injury list means that Neil Henry has a shortage of outside backs.
Mitch Rein v Nathan Peats
These two contenders for the NSW no.9 jersey won’t be thinking about Origin, rather finals football. Both clubs boast impressive forward packs will plenty of depth on the bench. How these two rakes order around their troops as well as the quality of their passing to the halves will go a long way to deciding the match.
Both hookers have only assisted one try in their last five games, but Rein also has a try to his name which was against the Storm. Peats has only recently begun to start games for his new club, and it is important for the Titans that he combines with his teammates quickly if they are to be playing come September.
The Dragons have only scored more than 20 points on two occasions – once against the Knights and the other against the lowly Rabbitohs in a losing cause. The returns of Mead, Hurrell and Taylor, should see the Titans accrue enough points to get over the line.
The Dragons did win their previous encounter 19-14, but the Titans have recruited well since then and have some confidence within their playing group.
Titans by 6.
Dragons: 1 Josh Dugan 2 Kalifa Faifai Loa 3 Euan Aitken 4 Kurt Mann 5 Jason Nightingale 6 Gareth Widdop 7 Benji Marshall 8 Russell Packer 9 Mitch Rein 10 Tyson Frizell 11 Jacob Host 12 Joel Thompson 13 Jack De Belin. Interchange: 14 Tariq Sims 15 Leeson Ah Mau 16 Dunamis Lui 17 Jacob Marketo 19 Tyrone McCarthy
Titans: 1 David Mead 2 Anthony Don 3 Josh Hoffman 4 Konrad Hurrell 5 Nene MacDonald 6 Tyrone Roberts 7 Ashley Taylor 8 Luke Douglas 9 Nathan Peats 10 Ryan James 11 John Zebelon Taia 12 Chris McQueen 13 Greg Bird Interchange: 14 Eddy Pettybourne 15 Leivaha Pulu 16 Agnatius Paasi 17 Nathan Friend 18 Nathaniel Peteru 19 Ryan Simpkins