Gold Coast Titans v Vodafone Warriors
Cbus Super Stadium, Robina
3.00pm, Saturday, June 10
It's fitting that as the Titans celebrate their 10 years in the Telstra Premiership this Saturday it is the Vodafone Warriors who are the team that share the occasion.
So many of the significant moments in Gold Coast's history have involved the Vodafone Warriors, from the 2010 qualifying final that drew the second-largest crowd ever to Cbus Super Stadium and put the team within reach of a grand final berth to the unveiling of Jarryd Hayne in Round 22 last year that saw more than 25,000 people converge on Robina, the biggest crowd since that finals meeting six years earlier.
Yet for all the joy the Titans have enjoyed against the Vodafone Warriors there has been more than a fair share of despair with the Kiwis winning 12 of the past 13 meetings between the two teams including their past six at Robina.
The two sides come into this game level on the premiership table on 10 points apiece and cognisant of the need to start a winning run against a team that threatens to stand in their way should they sneak ahead this week.
Titans coach Neil Henry has played his trump card in the lead-up by naming Jarryd Hayne at fullback and recalling New South Wales Origin hooker Nathan Peats after he missed last week's loss to the Cowboys due to injury.
Hayne's shift to the back from left centre sees Dale Copley move in from the wing and William Zillman promoted to the starting side while for the Vodafone Warriors Stephen Kearney has been forced to make the one change, Queensland prop Jacob Lillyman returns to the starting side for James Gavet (hamstring) with Bunty Afoa added to the bench.
The Titans will unveil their Team of the Decade during Saturday's celebrations but they aren't the only ones marking a milestone; Vodafone Warriors back-rower Ryan Hoffman will play his 300th game in the NRL on Saturday.
Why the Titans can win: The Titans have shown the past two years that they are a team that finishes strongly so if they can keep pace with the fast-starting Vodafone Warriors they should be able to power over the top late in the game. The Titans have score 18 of their 48 tries this season in the final 30 minutes of games while the Vodafone Warriors have managed to score only half that many in the same period. The period between the 50th and 60th minute is the greatest concern for the Warriors; they have conceded nine tries in that period and not scored a single one themselves.
Why the Vodafone Warriors can win: He had an awful game against the Eels last week but Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson will have his eyes on a Titans' left-edge defence that has been suspect all season and is again trotting out a new combination. With Johnson often the spark, the Warriors shift to their right 30 per cent more often than they go to the left and with Dale Copley moving in from the wing to play left centre and William Zillman coming onto the wing Johnson will no doubt test their levels of communication in defence more than once. If they can pull that side of Gold Coast's defence apart the points should flow.
History: Played 21; Titans 7, Vodafone Warriors 14. Between 2008 and 2010 the Titans dominated this match-up with six straight wins but outside of that it has been all the Vodafone Warriors. Their overall record on the Gold Coast stands at seven wins from 11 games including the past six on the trot and they also have a commanding edge in games played between these two sides on Saturdays, winning eight of 10. Konrad Hurrell has played in seven games involving these two sides and scored seven tries (six for Vodafone Warriors, one for Titans).
What are the odds: The Vodafone Warriors are paying $2.05 in the head-to-head odds on the New Zealand TAB while Gold Coast is at $1.70. Latest odds www.tab.co.nz
Gold Coast Titans: Jarryd Hayne; Anthony Don, Dale Copley, Konrad Hurrell, William Zillman; Kane Elgey, Ashley Taylor; Jarrod Wallace, Nathan Peats, Ryan James; Chris McQueen, Joe Greenwood; Leivaha Pulu. Interchange: Karl Lawton, Morgan Boyle, Paterika Vaivai, Tyrone Roberts, Agnatius Paasi, Nathaniel Peteru, Max King, Eddy Pettybourne.
Vodafone Warriors: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c); David Fusitu’a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo; Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson; Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino; Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman; Simon Mannering. Interchange: Nathaniel Roache, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, Bunty Afoa, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Ligi Sao, Toafofoa Sipley, Mafoa’aeata Hingano.
Match officials: Referee: Dave Munro; Assistant Referee: Chris Sutton; Touch Judges: Rickey Mcfarlane and Nick Morel; Review Official: Ben Galea; Senior RO: Jared Maxwell.
Televised: SKY Sport 2 - Live from 4.30pm NZT; Fox League - Live from 2.30pm AEST.
NRL.com predicts: Titans coach Neil Henry may refuse to believe in bogey teams but as Winston Churchill once said, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." After recording just one win from their past 13 games against the Vodafone Warriors, the Titans need to learn their lesson or be in danger of losing touch completely with the top eight. In a clash of two inconsistent teams it might just be the Titans who are the least inconsistent. Just. Titans by four points.