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2021 NRL Round 23 Preview, Titans Vs Storm

Andrew Pelechaty previews the Round 23 opener between the Gold Coast and Melbourne at Cbus Super Stadium. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast, Date: Thursday, August 19 Time: 7:50pm

Titans Team

  1. Jayden Campbell
  2. Greg Marzhew
  3. Brian Kelly
  4. Patrick Herbert
  5. Corey Thompson
  6. Ashley Taylor
  7. Jamal Fogarty
  8. Jarrod Wallace
  9. Erin Clark
  10. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
  11. Kevin Proctor
  12. David Fifita
  13. Sam McIntyre
  14. Tyrone Peachey
  15. Sam Lisone
  16. Jaimin Jolliffe
  17. Beau Fermor
  18. Phillip Sami
  19. Mitch Rein
  20. Esarn Marsters
  21. Herman Ese’ese

Team Changes

IN: Esan Marsters
Herman Ese’ese
Jamal Fogarty
Jayden Campbell
Phillip Sami
Sam McIntyre


OUT: Alexander Brimson
Moeaki Fotuaika
Toby Sexton

Storm Team

  1. Ryan Papenhuyzen
  2. George Jennings
  3. Reimis Smith
  4. Marion Seve
  5. Josh Addo-Carr
  6. Cameron Munster
  7. Nicho Hynes
  8. Jesse Bromwich
  9. Harry Grant
  10. Christian Welch
  11. Felise Kaufusi
  12. Kenneath Bromwich
  13. Chris Lewis
  14. Jordan Grant
  15. Tom Eisenhuth
  16. Tepai Moeroa
  17. Cooper Johns
  18. Aaron Booth
  19. Trent Loiero
  20. Aaron Pene
  21. Isaac Lumelume

Team Changes

IN: Aaron Booth
Aaron Pene
Cooper Johns
George Jennings
Isaac Lumelume
Jordan Grant
Marion Seve
Trent Loiero


OUT:
Brandon Smith
Dale Finucane
Dean Ieremia
Jahrome Hughes
Justin Olam

Referee: Ben Cummins

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Titans

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Coming into the South Sydney game, the Titans were riding a three-game winning streak, but received a reality check against a rampant Rabbitohs side gunning for a top four – and maybe a top two – finish, losing 36-6.

The game was over at halftime, with Souths leading 24-0.

Favoured to play finals after a strong finish to 2020 and some big off-season signings, the Titans have gained a reputation as “flat track bullies”, with eight of their nine wins against bottom eight teams.

AJ Brimson is out with a jaw injury, while skipper Jamal Fogarty is back at halfback. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui moves from lock to prop.

Storm

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For the second week in a row, the seemingly invincible Storm were pushed hard, beating Canberra 26-16 to earn their 18th straight win.

Many expected them to destroy the Raiders, and that prediction looked safe when Melbourne led 20-4 at half-time (tries to Brandon Smith, Dean Ieremia, and Chris Lewis). But the Raiders – desperate to keep their finals hopes alive – closed the gap to 20-16 with a Bailey Simonsson hat-trick. While the Storm were kept tryless for the last 60 minutes, three penalty goals to Ryan Papenhuyzen was enough to see the Raiders off.

There’s a few changes for the Storm as they prepare for another finals tilt.

Ryan Papenhuyzen is back at fullback and Nicho Hynes shifts to halfback to fill in for a rested Jahrome Hughes. Harry Grant will start at hooker with Brandon Smith also rested. Justin Olam is also resting, replaced by Marion Seve. George Jennings is back from a knee injury, replacing Dean Ieremia.

PREVIEW

While both these sides are in the top eight, their fortunes are worlds apart.

The Titans sit eighth (edging the Raiders on points differential) and finish their season against Newcastle (a massive “four point game”) and the Warriors (who are still a late finals chance). Based on their big loss to Souths, even if they do squeeze into the eight, they’ll struggle to get past the semi-finals. They probably won’t beat the Storm, but how they play against them will say a lot about their attitude.

The Storm have bigger goals in mind: with three rounds left and a two-point lead over Penrith (second) and Souths (third), will they push for the minor premiership, or settle for a top four spot at worst? They’ve already started resting a few players ahead of the finals.

The one advantage the Storm have is location: as the unofficial fourth Queensland team, and an invincible record in the Sunshine State, top four home ground advantage won’t matter as much, as they already have the crowds on their side, and playing the Titans at Robina won’t phase them either.

Like the Titans, the Storm’s attitude will say a lot here: if they lead comfortably at half-time, will they try to bury the Titans, or will they dial it back, make sure nobody important is injured, take the two points, and move on?

KEY STAT

Their Round 13 clash on the Sunshine Coast was tighter than expected: the Storm outgunned the Titans four tries to three for a 20-14 win. The Titans are one of the few teams to beat Melbourne in Queensland, winning 38-36 at Lang Park way back in 2017.

PREDICTION

This will be the Storm by “how many”, which depends on how hungry they are. Do they just want the two points, or do they want to be ruthless?

Storm by 20.

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