Before this season began, nobody would’ve predicted the Titans to be in the position they are in now. Many had them as stand-alone favourites to take the wooden spoon home. Now, with just 6 games left in the regular season, they are sitting inside the top eight and are in prime position to lock down their place. Who’s laughing now DCE? However, this week they have their toughest challenge of the season against the top placed Sharks who are on an unbeaten streak and have an insatiable hunger to win their first ever premiership.
Last Time Out
The Titans were extremely impressive in their dominant win over a depleted Eels team last week. The Titans young guns and recruits have been the biggest reason for their recent form spike. Ash Taylor, Nene Macdonald, Konrad Hurrell, and Nathan Peats all had a huge impact on the game. They even played the game without their senior representative player, Greg Bird. This week they will welcome back Bird, but Nathan Friend will miss the game and Nathan Peats is in doubt. If Peats cannot play, Simpkins is likely to play at hooker as the Titans are facing a hooker crisis.
The Sharks had a field day against the Knights, as would be expected, and they did it without James Maloney. There is a good reason this team is on top of the table. They have been dominant all year, including through the origin period when they had five players missing. James Maloney will return from his rest week and the Sharks don’t look like stopping their streak anytime soon. Barba has been one of the best players in the competition this year and seems to be getting better every week. He is well and truly back to his old form.
Greg Bird vs. Everyone/Himself
Let’s remember why Greg Bird was missing last week in the first place. He is now the fourth most suspended player of the NRL era. This week he will play several of his old NSW teammates including Michael Ennis. Paul Gallen might be the lock opposite to him, and they are sure to give each other plenty of grief as both are quite well known for being very aggressive, but Michael Ennis’ grubby tactics are almost certain to rile him up. He might be mates with them off the field, but on the field he could either be an absolute gun and rip the Sharks apart or he could end up being a liability to his team and himself by doing something, or many things, stupid.
The Titans may be playing well, but it is hard to imagine any team beating the Sharks right now. It should be a close game, but despite the Titans pack being highly underrated will still be no match for Cronulla’s and their backs will suffer for it. Add the hooker issue on top of that and the Titans will crumble under the pressure of the daunting task.
Sharks by 8.
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 18 Ryan Simpkins 19 Nathaniel Peteru
Sharks: 1 Ben Barba 2 Sosaia Feki 3 Jack Bird 4 Gerard Beale 5 Valentine Holmes 6 James Maloney 7 Chad Townsend 8 Andrew Fifita 9 Michael Ennis 10 Sam Tagataese 11 Luke Lewis 12 Wade Graham 13 Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14 Joseph Paulo 15 Chris Heighington 16 Matt Prior 17 Jayson Bukuya.