After an unbelievable golden point victory, the Penrith Panthers travel to the Gold Coast to take on the struggling Titans. Jem Nash previews….
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Gold Coast Titans
Just a month in, the Titans’ season could be on the line as they remain win-less after four rounds. Their attack is perhaps their biggest problem, scoring just 36 points in four games. Ash Taylor and Tyrone Roberts need to find a spark to lift their team, otherwise the Gold Coast side could be waving goodbye to any hopes they have in 2019.
It’s an obvious statement, but the Panthers were incredibly lucky to escape with a win last week against the Tigers. For the first 78 minutes of that game, Penrith never looked in it, the Tigers dominating possession and field position. When the Panthers did have the ball, they never looked dangerous. Regardless, you can’t fault the clutch sideline conversion and massive 40 metre field goal from Nathan Cleary. The Panthers will be hoping their young half gains a lot of confidence from the finish as he has been out of sorts to begin the season.
Gold Coast Titans
The Titans have made just the one change with Max King coming onto the bench in place of the suspended Moeaki Fotuaika.
Gold Coast Titans squad: 1 Michael Gordon, Anthony Don, 3 Tyrone Peachey, 4 Brian Kelly, 5 Dale Copley, 6 Tyrone Roberts, 7 Ashley Taylor, 8 Jarrod Wallace, 9 Mitch Rein, 10 Ryan James, 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Bryce Cartwright, 13 Jai Arrow Interchange: 14 Alexander Brimson, 15 Max King, 16 Shannon Boyd, 17 Keegan Hipgrave Reserves: 18 Jack Stockwell, 19 Philip Sami, 20 Jai Whitbread, 21 Ryley Jacks
After a tumultuous couple of weeks, Dylan Edwards has been replaced at fullback by Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, with Edwards taking his spot on the wing. Frank Winterstein is out injured, with Tyrell Fuimaono coming onto the bench and Viliame Kikau returning to the starting side after beginning last week’s match on the bench.
Penrith Panthers squad: 1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Dean Whare, 4 Waqa Blake, 5 Dylan Edwards, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Sione Katoa, 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 James Fisher-Harris Interchange: 14 Wayde Egan, 15 Tyrell Fuimaono, 16 Moses Leota, 17 Hame Sele Reserves: 18 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 19 Tim Grant, 20 Jarome Luai, 21 Liam Martin
HEAD TO HEAD
The Panthers won both of these sides’ meetings in 2018, the latest a stunning comeback victory in golden point. Nathan Cleary had a chance to win the game in regulation after the Panthers scored a try to equal score in the dying seconds, but he missed the conversion. The current New South Wales halfback made up for it, though, slotting a field goal in golden point to ice the game.
It isn’t so much a key battle but there’s no doubting the importance of Viliame Kikau to this Panthers team. He will have a great chance to find some space on that left edge this week up against former Panther Bryce Cartwright. Cartwright’s defence has been a massive talking point in recent times, but he will need to muscle up against the always dangerous Kikau, because if the big Fijian sees even the smallest amount of space you can assure he will be through the line before you know what’s happened.
With the Panthers still struggling in attack, Kikau is the key. Cleary and James Maloney in the halves need to make sure their big back rower gets early ball and allow him to do the damage everyone knows he can do. Perhaps Kikau can be the man to spark the Panthers and get them playing the football they are capable of.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday, April 12
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium
Referee: Dave Munro, Liam Kennedy
WHO WILL WIN?
The Panthers are lucky to have two wins to begin the season, but this is a match they shouldn’t lose. The Titans are really struggling right now and Penrith need to take advantage and get their season on track. Look for Cleary to take some confidence from last week’s clutch performance and rise to the occasion this week in a big way.
Panthers by 12.