Round 21 brings us Parramatta against the Gold Coast at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night. The home side are fighting to get off the bottom of the ladder and the Titans need to win every game – and hope for other results – to keep their slim finals hopes alive.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Eels were close to upsetting competition heavyweights South Sydney last week, but couldn’t put an 80 minute performance together. They copped some key injuries, with Daniel Alvaro and Kaysa Pritchard failing to finish the game. Parramatta have won two of their last 10 games.
Gold Coast Titans
The Titans put together probably their best performance of the season last week, with a 36-12 victory over the Warriors (who are fighting to stay in the top eight). In round 19 they gave up a 14-point lead against the Knights in a disappointing performance. The Titans have won four of their last 10 games.
Some big outs for the home side: Alvaro with a bad concussion and Pritchard with a badly dislocated shoulder. Both are huge losses for the Eels with Alvaro having a breakout season and Pritchard being very threatening out of dummy half. George Jennings returns to the side, Jarryd Hayne moves back to the centres and Brad Takairangi drops back to the bench. Jaeman Salmon makes his debut off the bench with Reed Mahoney starting at hooker.
Gold Coast Titans
The Titans are unchanged from last week. After their big win over the Warriors last week it’s hard to see any late changes barring injury.
The Eels are looking to avoid their third wooden spoon since 2012. They are one win behind the 15th-placed Cowboys and are on -140 points differential. They’d want a big win here, and hope for the Dragons to get a big win over the Cowboys to get off the bottom of the ladder.
The Titans have underachieved this year with a new coach and a young team. Ash Taylor has been in a form slump since he wasn’t selected for Origin three, but it’s the emergence of young guns AJ Brimson and Phillip Sami that have been the real high points of the last few months of footy.
The key match up is the battle of the 13s, with Nathan Brown against Jai Arrow. Both have had great seasons, with Brown the standout of the Eels pack and Arrow in his breakout year, making his Queensland Origin debut, where he played all three games and even started at prop in game three. He picked up a knee injury in the last game of the series, took a couple weeks off and since returning has averaged around 40 minutes in the last two game – compared to Brown playing the full 80. Hopefully Arrow is good to go this week as it will be a great match up between the two.
Another one to watch is Keegan Hipgrave, who starts in the back row for the Gold Coast. He just re-signed with the club and has a cult following on the Coast, but can he keep his aggression under control?
Hayne has been returning to his best with five tries in his last six games and he is up against his old side, who he was very disappointing for after his stints with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL and the Fiji Rugby team before the 2016 Olympics.
The sides’ records in these clashes are pretty even. The Titans have won six of the last 10 with the Eels winning three of their last five home clashes (although they were at Parramatta Stadium, not ANZ). Thankfully for Parramatta it is a home game as they are 0-10 in away games this season.
1. Clint Gutherson, 2. Bevan French, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Jarryd Hayne, 5. George Jennings, 6. Corey Norman, 7. Mitch Moses, 8. Siosaia Vave, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Tim Mannah, 11. Marata Niukore, 12. Tepai Moeroa, 13. Nathan Brown.
Interchange: 14. Jaeman Salmon, 15. Kane Evans, 16. Peni Terepo, 17. Brad Takairangi.
Gold Coast Titans
1. Michael Gordon, 2. Anthony Don, 3. Konrad Hurrell, 4. Brenko Lee, 5. Phillip Sami, 6. AJ Brimson, 7. Ash Taylor, 8. Jarrod Wallace, 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Ryan James, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Keegan Hipgrave, 13. Jai Arrow.
Reserves: 18. Leilani Latu, 19. Brendan Elliot, 20. Jai Whitbread, 21. Kane Elgey.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday August 4th
Venue: ANZ Stadium
WHO WILL WIN?
There’s been many changes for the Eels and the Titans hit some form last week. Hard to pick a winner, but I am a long-time Titans member and I’m backing them to upset the Eels in a tight one.
Titans by four.