NRL Preview: Beware the Titans
While the bookies have the home team the red hot favourites, nobody at the Sharks is being lulled into any false sense of security in regards to the match with the Titans on Sunday.
Written off by many at the start of the season as potential wooden spooners, the Titans have surprised many, if certainly not themselves, with a strong start to the season which has included three wins and close losses to the Broncos and Storm.
Adding to their solid start the fact that the 2015 version of the Titans side defeated the Sharks at Southern Cross Group Stadium and was only beaten by a Valentine Holmes field goal on the Gold Coast, leaving the Cronulla team with no reason to be complacent.
“They beat us here and it was golden point up there in the on the Gold Coast,” Sharks coach Shane Flanagan recalled. “They’ve got no superstars but they’re working hard for each other and we expect a really tough game.
“We need to make sure we concentrate and prepare well.”
It may have been the Sharks celebrating a one-point win back in round 10 last year when Holmes slotted the field goal, however it was a totally different story the first time the two teams met in 2015.
With their noses in front heading into the last few minutes of the match Wade Graham had a moment he would like to forget, throwing an intercept pass to speedster James Roberts as the Titans stole a victory.
Both Flanagan and Graham recollect the moment with the pair to use it as a further reminder the Sharks will need to be on their game should they hope to walk away with the points on Sunday.
“I remember when they got us last year,” Graham told the Big Sports Breakfast this morning. “I threw an intercept to James Roberts and they won the game.
“We always have good battles and I’m 100 per cent sure that will be the case this weekend.”
As for Flanagan, the 2015 clash is still somewhere in the back of his mind as well.
“We were our own worst enemies last year against the Titans. We had the game sewn up, threw that intercept to James Roberts and he ran the length of the field,” he said. “We’re in pretty good form but they’re a side that are going to test us all the way and if we don’t respect them we’ll get our pants pulled down.”
One thing in the Sharks favour could be that Roberts won’t be lurking out wide to perform a similar miracle and neither will boom youngster Kane Elgey, the half back ruled out for the 2016 season with a knee injury.
However in their place are a number of more than capable replacements, with all eyes set to be on debutant five eighth Cameron Cullen.
A former Australian Schoolboy, Cullen comes in for the experienced Tyrone Roberts who is also sidelined with a knee injury.
While the Titans backline may be inexperienced, in the forwards they will throw up a considerable challenge with the likes of Greg Bird, Chris McQueen, Ryan James and former Shark Luke Douglas set to make things uncomfortable for the Cronulla team.
But this Sharks team has shown enough in recent weeks to indicate they can get the job done on Sunday, especially at Southern Cross Group Stadium in front of a vocal home crowd.
“We’d like to think at home we can be a force and if we can win our home games and compete on the road, we’ll play in the semi-finals,” Flanagan said.
The Sharks will go into the match with an unchanged line-up, with skipper Paul Gallen to make his second appearance since returning from the knee injury which kept him out for three matches.
The two teams sit level on six competition points, with the Sharks sixth and Titans ninth on for-and-against.
The match on Sunday is scheduled for a 2.00pm kick-off at Southern Cross Group Stadium, with the NYC game to get underway at 11.40am. Gates to Southern Cross Group Stadium open at 11.30am.
HEAD TO HEAD
Sharks 7 – Gold Coast 6
At Southern Cross Group Stadium
Sharks 5 – Gold Coast 3
Past 10 matches - 2008-2015
Sharks 7 – Gold Coast 3
2011 – Sharks bt Titans 36-12 – Skilled Stadium
2008 – Titans bt Sharks 18-4 – Skilled Stadium
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