After a break in the Representative Round, Wests Tigers take on the Gold Coast Titans this Sunday at in a game certainly not short of storylines on or off the field.
Perhaps the biggest news out of Concord in the past week has been the return of Life Member Robbie Farah, with the 34-year-old securing a mid-season switch from the South Sydney Rabbitohs to link up once more with his former team. The experienced hooker has been named to start Sunday's game at his childhood ground in Leichhardt Oval in what will certainly be an emotional affair for all involved, and his nous and class out of dummy half will certainly add plenty to the way in which Ivan Cleary's side attack.
In that regard, the same must be said of Moses Mbye, whose mid-season arrival has many Wests Tigers fans excited about both the present and the future. Having only moved in to the number one jersey this year, Mbye has shown to be both a dynamic and creative spark with the ball in hand, while his goal-kicking skills offer Wests Tigers another option with Esan Marsters also striking them well this year.
Off the field, the focus has been all around Farah and Mbye, and with Josh Reynolds returning from the hamstring niggle that kept him out of the Round 15 loss to Canberra, it's certainly shaping as a fair spine for Wests Tigers this Sunday with Luke Brooks rounding out the attacking quartet at halfback.
How they fare against a Gold Coast side that has shown a susceptibility to leak points this year will be interesting to watch — even if it's not the key to Wests Tigers bouncing back with a win on Sunday.
That, it seems, is the defence, after Wests Tigers conceded 48 unanswered points and a whopping 61 missed tackles in their last start loss to the Raiders — the third most by any team in a game this year.
With a new look side, defence had been the hallmark of Cleary's side through the opening half of the season, and they'll no doubt be desperate to return to that end this weekend. Three consecutive defeats have Wests Tigers four points back from the top eight, and with the bye in Round 17, Sunday's game is shaping as a cliched "four-pointer" and a crucial one to win if there is to be a late push for a finals berth.
All the talk has been around Wests Tigers, but it's worth too considering the Gold Coast Titans for a moment — a side that is much improved from the opening month of the season, and could well be higher on the ladder had they managed the key moments of games better throughout the last six weeks.
Garth Brennan's side aren't short on talent with the likes of Michael Gordon, Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace all in good form and both Ash Taylor and Ryan James pushing for a State of Origin debut in Game III.
The Titans' convincing last start win over the Bulldogs showed they can win away from home, and despite the fourth most points of any team this year, will certainly prove a tough challenge for the home side.
Wests Tigers have lost four of their last five against the Gold Coast, although they were last-start winners when the two sides met in Round 21 last year. Interestingly, the Titans have won their past two games at Leichhardt Oval, with their only loss at the venue coming back in the final rounds of the 2008 season.
Date — Sunday, July 1, 2018
Time — 2:00pm AEST
Venue — Leichhardt Oval
TV, RADIO AND LIVE STREAM INFORMATION
TV — Live via FOX League (Ch.502)
Radio — AM 702 ABC Grandstand, AM 2GB 873
Live Stream — Foxtel Go, NRL Digital Pass, Watch NRL Streaming (exc. Australia)
Jamie Soward previews Sunday's clash with the Titans
LATEST CROWNBET ODDS
H2H — Wests Tigers ($1.49), Gold Coast Titans ($2.62)
Line — Wests Tigers -6 ($1.92), Gold Coast Titans +6 ($1.92)
LATEST TEAM NEWS
IN'S — Josh Reynolds, Michael Chee Kam, Moses Mbye, Robbie Farah, Sauaso Sue, Chris McQueen
OUT'S — Ben Matulino, Mahe Fonua, Matt McIlwrick, Tim Grant
WESTS TIGERS — 1. Moses Mbye 2. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 3. Esan Marsters 4. Kevin Naiqama 5. Corey Thompson 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Luke Brooks 8. Russell Packer 9. Robbie Farah 14. Alex Twal 11. Chris Lawrence 12. Josh Aloiai 13. Elijah Taylor (Interchange: 15. Sauaso Sue 16. Michael Chee Kam 17. Matt Eisenhuth 21. Chris McQueen 18. Tyson Gamble 19. Robbie Rochow) — Coach: Ivan Cleary
GOLD COAST TITANS — 1. Michael Gordon 2. Anthony Don 3. Dale Copley 4. Brenko Lee 5. Phillip Sami 6. AJ Brimson 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Ryan James 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Keegan Hipgrave 13. Jai Arrow (Interchange: 14. Mitch Rein 15. Will Matthews 16. Moeaki Fotuaika 17. Jack Stockwell 18 Morgan Boyle 19. Konrad Hurrell 22. Leilaniu Latu) — Coach: Garth Brennan
Overall — Played 20, Wests Tigers 8, Gold Coast 11, Drawn 1
At Leichhardt Oval — Played 3, Wests Tigers 1, Gold Coast 2
Last Time They Met — Wests Tigers 26 def. Gold Coast Titans 4 at Cbus Super Stadium (Rd.21, 2017)
2018 SEASON SO FAR
|WESTS TIGERS||GOLD COAST TITANS|
|Position||10th (14 points)||11th (12 points)|
|Points For||230 points (15th)||266 points (12th)|
|Points Against||265 points (7th)||355 points (13th)|
|Home Form||Won 5, Lost 3||Won 3, Lost 3|
|Away Form||Won 2, Lost 5||Won 2, Lost 6|
|Last Five Games||LWLLL||WLBLW|
Match Referees — Jon Stone and Gavin Reynolds
Touch Judges — Peter Gough and Michael Wise
Review Officials — Luke Patten and Jarred Maxwell