Melbourne Storm (4th) v Gold Coast Titans (13th) 5:30pm Saturday at Suncorp Stadium
The double-header returns to Suncorp Stadium this Saturday. The first game sees the ladder-climbing Melbourne Storm against the Gold Coast Titans, who seem to be on the slide. This will be a tough challenge for the Titans.
After starting the season with three wins from their first five games, Gold Coast have lost four in a row and are about to face a team that was walloped by the ladder-leading big Red V last week. We all know how this pack responds and that does not look good for Garth Brennan’s men. How does the coach work out a plan that can even compete with a squad that contains The Fox (Josh Addo-Carr), one of the game’s best fullbacks, and the age-defying Cameron Smith?
KEY MATCH UP
The Dragons showed last week the Storm are beatable. The Titans will need leadership from senior players Ryan James and Kevin Proctor to get them believing they can pull off an upset. Melbourne have one of the best forward packs – including Felise Kaufusi and Nelson Asofa-Solomona – so it’ll be a mammoth task to match them.
TEAM FORM GUIDE & SQUAD NEWS
Centre Curtis Scott has been named to return. Dale Finucane starts at lock with Kenny Bromwich reverting to the bench.
GOLD COAST TITANS
Four successive losses have forced Brennan to make his first team shake-up, dropping fan favourite Konrad Hurrell and blooding 19-year-old five-eighth Alexander Brimson.
On debut, Brimson will oppose the boom star on the rise Cameron Munster. He becomes the third partner this season to Taylor in the halves after Elgey and Cartwright.
He also joins 18-year-old prop Moeaki Fotuaika, who made a surprise debut in the front row – off the bench – against Canberra’s monster pack. He’s now in the starting side.
Queensland Origin hopeful Jai Arrow has been rested because of a rib injury.
Brennan has made a huge list of changes for this week’s game. Bryce Cartwright has been dropped to the bench with Brimson coming in. Centres Hurrell and Brendan Elliott are both out, replaced by Dale Copley (coming back from injury) and Brenko Lee. Arrow is out with Jarrod Wallace moving to lock, Ryan James shifting back to the front row and Will Matthews returning in the second row. Ryan Simpkins drops off the bench.
For the Storm to win: This should be easy for this pack but they will be looking to inflict pain and post early points. Expect all of those players who are likely to gain rep jerseys to really make an impression: the two Cam’s, Slater, Addo-Carr and Chambers.
For the Titans to win: They will need to replicate the earlier winning form shown against the Raiders, Broncos and Sea Eagles. They have lost four in a row and can’t get anything consistent from their halves.
Melbourne have won nine of their past 10 games at Suncorp and four of their past five against the Titans. Winger Suliasi Vunivalu has scored six tries in his past four games at Suncorp.
In their previous two trips to Suncorp Stadium the Titans have racked up 64 points. Veteran fullback Michael Gordon would probably prefer to never face the Storm, losing 13 of the previous 14 games he has played against them.
Melbourne Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Ryley Jacks, 8 Christian Welch, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Dale Finucane
Interchange: 14 Brandon Smith, 15 Kenny Bromwich, 16 Joe Stimson, 17 Sam Kasiano
Reserves: 18 Brodie Croft, 19 Tui Kamikamica, 20 Patrick Kaufusi, 21 Justin Olam
Gold Coast Titans: 1 Michael Gordon, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Dale Copley, 4 Brenko Lee, 5 Phillip Sami, 6 AJ Brimson, 7 Ashley Taylor, 8 Max King, 9 Mitch Rein, 10 Ryan James (c), 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Will Matthews, 13 Jarrod Wallace
Interchange: 14 Bryce Cartwright, 15 Keegan Hipgrave, 16 Jack Stockwell, 17 Moeaki Fotuaika
Reserves: 18 Leilani Latu, 19 Konrad Hurrell, 20 Nathan Peats, 21 Kane Elgey
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 12 May
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
THE BEARDED ONE’S FINAL THOUGHT
The Bearded One is a huge Gold Coast fan – but I do not see this clash going the way I would like it to. In the Indigenous round we get to see a great wealth of indigenous talent from both sides. The young Taylor is growing but has a long way to go with his supporting cast. The Storm outfit sees the pure speed from Vunivalu, The Fox and Slater (who still has amazing speed for his age) across the park, bolstered by their large pack up front. You would think this would be too much for the Titans without considering Smith’s entrenched leadership.
The Storm will back up the way they know how against a struggling Titans squad, and it will be a game done within the first half.
Melbourne Storm by 12 points