Craig Cauchi previews the Gold Coast Titans and St George Illawarra Dragons in their final game for the 2019 season.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Gold Coast Titans
Gold Coast have not won a match since they upset the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium back in June that places them on a 10-match losing run. They have shown periods over the last few weeks that they can hang in but ultimately have not come close as they better sides have shown too much class.
St George Illawarra Dragons
St George have played truly disappointing football this year and last Sunday afternoon was another match that they would rather forget. They have not kept themselves in the contest for the entire 80 in the past few weeks, while before they were just doing enough to place themselves in a winning position. In the last 9 weeks of football the Dragons have only won one game, which was against the Titans.
Gold Coast Titans
The Titans have made a host of changes for their final match of the season. Tyrone Peachey is moved to the centres for Kallum Watkins, while AJ Brimson will fill the five-eighth position. Mitch Rein slots into hooker and Nathan Peats is pushed out to lock. That brings Jai Arrow up to the front row with the empty bench position taken by Jack Stockwell, leaving Moeaki Fotuaika out of the side.
Gold Coast Titans squad: 1. Michael Gordon 2. Jesse Arthars 3. Tyrone Peachey 4. Brian Kelly 5. Phillip Sami 6. Alexander Brimson 7. Ryley Jacks 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Mitch Rein 10. Jai Arrow 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Sam Stone 13. Nathan Peats 14. Tanah Boyd 15. Jai Whitbread 16. Bryce Cartwright 17. Jack Stockwell 18. Will Matthews 19. Kallum Watkins 20. Ash Taylor 21. Anthony Don
St George Illawarra Dragons
Cameron McInnes has been ruled out with a broken leg meaning Reece Robson will take the number 9 position. Corey Norman returns at fullback after his week absence, with Tristain Sailor moving to the wing for Zac Lomax, who might play depending on concussion protocols. Blake Lawrie retains his starting position with Luciano Leilua moving to the bench. Jeremy Lattimore returns for his final match.
St George Illawarra Dragons squad: 1. Corey Norman 2. Tristan Sailor 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Jonus Pearson 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Reece Robson 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Jackson Ford 13. Blake Lawrie 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Korbin Sims 16. Luciano Leilua 17. Josh Kerr 18. Patrick Kaufusi 19. Zac Lomax 20. Matthew Dufty 21. Jacob Host
HEAD TO HEAD
This will be the second time these two teams have met this year and all inside a month. The Dragons were victorious 40-28 with both sides playing a free flowing game that prioritised attack over defence. Before that, the Dragons were emphatic in their victory in 2018, but while most of the players are the same, the team is centuries from that form. This will be the first time the Dragons have been to CBUS Stadium since 2017 with the Titans proving the better side in that encounter. Ashley Taylor and Anthony Donn stared in that match but both players have been named in the reserves and unlikely to take the field this time.
Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace will need to the lead the charge for the Titans on Saturday night. Not only will they need to get through a mountain of defensive work to ensure a similar score line from their previous encounter doesn’t eventuate but they need to take the intensity of the match in attack to the next level. If they can get over the Dragons forwards and dominate them from the start, it will open up out wide for their quick outside backs. The Dragons have shown fragile defensive edges and if these two players can get them playing on the front foot they could find their recent trend of big losses reversed in a massive way. Jai Arrow churned out big numbers in his last match against Melbourne and if he get through the same amount of work, he will get a greater reward against a side that pales in comparison.
While the Dragons might be a little salty if their halves were to combine perfectly in the final match of they year, they unfortunately won’t stand a chance of victory if they don’t. Ben Hunt and Gareth Widdop played nearly the entire 2018 season as the halves combination but have failed to see much time together in 2019. If they can reforge that link in what will be their final ever match as 7 and 6 then the Dragons outside backs could be in for a big day. They allowed 3 tries in their previous match by turning over the ball through an intercept and poor kicks and have no other choice but to be better when it comes to their final tackle plays. If they play smart in where they turn the ball over then they can control the speed of the match and keep their forwards in it.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: 7th September
Venue: CBUS Super Stadium
Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski, Gavin Badger
WHO WILL WIN?
The Dragons have all the excuses ready: the travel, the motivation, the speculation over their coach. The Titans have shown glimpses in their recent performances but they will fancy themselves returning home against the struggling Dragons. TITANS BY 14.