Jem Nash previews the clash between the top-of-the-table Panthers and the struggling Titans on Sunday afternoon.
Gold Coast Titans
The Titans have got just three wins to their name in 2020, but they’ve shown some improvement under new coach Justin Holbrook. They were right in the contest against the Storm up until half time last week, before being blown away in a 42-6 loss. It doesn’t get any easier for them against the high-flying Panthers; but if they can put in a full 80-minute performance, anything can happen.
The Panthers are outright first on the ladder, but were given a scare against the lowly Cowboys last week. The Panthers were trailing in the early stages of the second half, but another masterclass from Nathan Cleary helped them claw back the lead and grind out a tough win. Coach Ivan Cleary will want to ensure they don’t get complacent this weekend, especially with a few more players joining the casualty ward this week.
Gold Coast Titans
1 Corey Thompson 2 Anthony Don 3 Brian Kelly 4 Dale Copley 5 Phillip Sami 6 Ashley Taylor 7 Jamal Fogarty 8 Moeaki Fotuaika 9 Erin Clark 10 Jaimin Jolliffe 11 Kevin Proctor 12 Keegan Hipgrave 13 Jai Arrow 14 Tanah Boyd 15 Sam Lisone 16 Tyrone Peachey 17 Jarrod Wallace 18 Sam Stone 19 Nathan Peats 20 Treymain Spry 21 Jai Whitbread.
Dale Copley returns from injury at centre, pushing Phillip Sami to the wing and Treymain Spry back into reserves. Captain Kevin Proctor is also back in the side in the second row.
1 Caleb Aekins 2 Josh Mansour 3 Brent Naden 4 Stephen Crichton 5 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 6 Jarome Luai 7 Nathan Cleary 8 James Tamou 9 Mitch Kenny 10 James Fisher-Harris 11 Viliame Kikau 12 Liam Martin 13 Isaah Yeo 14 Tyrone May 15 Spencer Leniu 16 Moses Leota 17 Billy Burns 18 Matt Burton 19 Daine Laurie 20 Lindsay Smith 21 Pat Hollis
The Panthers have been dealt a few injury blows following last week’s game. Dylan Edwards, Dean Whare and Apisai Koroisau will all miss at least a few weeks. Caleb Aekins will take on the fullback role, while Malakai Watene-Zelezniak comes in on the wing as Brent Naden takes Whare’s spot at centre. Mitch Kenny, at dummy half, will start for the first time in 2020.
The Panthers have dominated the head-to-head in recent times, winning five of the past six clashes against the Titans.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Nathan Cleary vs Ashley Taylor.
Cleary has been in arguably career-best form in 2020. For the first time in his career he has complete control over the side and he has taken on that responsibility with both hands. When the Panthers needed a lift last week, Cleary almost single-handedly picked up his team and led the comeback victory.
On the other side, it’s just become a constant story of Taylor not reaching his potential. He hasn’t been what the Titans had hoped when they signed him, but there are still flashes of what he’s capable of. He’ll have his work cut out for him coming up against a red-hot Cleary this weekend, but if he can come close the Titans might be in with a chance.
Panthers by 16.
Date: Sunday, July 26
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium