Titans v Broncos preview

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Gold Coast Titans v Brisbane Broncos Sunday 4:10pm at Cbus Super Stadium

Titans look to keep slim finals hopes alive as Broncos push for unlikely top four finish

After back-to-back wins over the Bulldogs and Tigers, the Gold Coast Titans suddenly find themselves scrambling for a possible top eight berth in 2018.

While the Titans have managed at least 30 points in both games, coach Garth Brennan would have been most impressed with their defence. Still ranked 15th in defence, Brennan's men have shown vast improvement in the last fortnight, conceding only two tries on both occasions. 

The Broncos have scored over 20 points in eight of their last 10 games. Therefore, the Titans will have to be just as strong in defence given that Wayne Bennett's men pose a far stronger threat in attack than Canterbury and Wests.

In saying that, the Tigers threw plenty at the Titans last week and had every right to win the game as they look to celebrate Robbie Farah's homecoming in style. However, the Gold Coast showed great determination and resolve to hold them out before storming home for a 30-12 win. 

With a top eight position suddenly within reach, there is a lot on the line for the Titans on Sunday afternoon when they return to Cbus Super Stadium for the first time in a month. Coach Brennan would certainly be grateful that halfback Ash Taylor will be available for the match against the Broncos.

The Gold Coast will be relatively thin up front with Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace confirmed participants in the third State of Origin game this year while Ryan James has been named 18th man for the Blues. James' absence would be particularly dejecting given he has arguably been the Titans' best in the past fortnight. 

While the Broncos are still a chance of dropping out of the NRL's top eight, the focus is now on contending for a top four spot and genuine chance at the premiership. A victory this week would see Brisbane join the band of other teams on 22 competition points. 

Doing so, however, will be particularly tough with Andrew McCullough, Corey Oates, Josh McGuire and James Roberts on Origin duty. The Broncos got out of jail last week when they pipped Canberra 26-22. 

It adds to a string of unconvincing victories for Wayne Bennett's men this year, who are yet to win a game by more than nine points. More control and game management from inconsistent halves pairing Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima will be definitely be important in overcoming this trend. Milford in particular displayed his immense potential in the second half but continues to search for an elusive 80-minute performance. 

The Broncos do have an advantage over the Titans in recent history having won 15 of their past 18 against the club. They also do welcome back Joe Ofahengaue and Tevita Pangai-Junior from injury in a welcome boost up front.

Last meeting: Round 4 2018 - Broncos 14 Titans 26

Who to watch: For the home side, all eyes will obviously be on Ash Taylor after he was snubbed of an Origin debut this week in favour of Daly Cherry-Evans. 

It is incredible to consider what Taylor has achieved on the field in recent years given he has been playing in one of the competition's struggling teams. Currently, Taylor leads the league this year for try-assists with 16 and also ranks third in the competition for line-break assists with 12. 

His creativity in attack is complemented by a composed long-range kicking game, something that both of Brisbane's halves are perhaps in need of. 

For the Broncos, all eyes will be on Jake Turpin as he makes his first-grade debut in place of regular hooker McCullough. The Brothers Ipswich junior has impressed this year for Redcliffe in the Queensland cup. 

It has not been an easy road for the rookie though, having come back this year from a devastating broken leg.

McCullough may not be known for his attacking prowess, yet his hard work in defence has been crucial to Brisbane's success this year.  If Turpin can give his big men quick service out of dummy-half it will go a long way to securing the win against a weakened Gold Coast pack.

Favourite: The Broncos are slight favourites.

Tip: The class of Taylor should see the Titans claim the win at home. Gold Coast by 12.

1. Michael Gordon 2. Anthony Don 3. Dale Copley 4. Brenko Lee 5. Phillip Sami 6. Aj Brimson 7. Ashley Taylor 17. Moeaki Fotuaika 9. Nathan Peats 10. Ryan James 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Will Matthews 13. Keegan Hipgrave 14. Mitch Rein 15. Morgan Boyle 16. Konrad Hurrell 18. Leilani Latu

1. Darius Boyd 2. Jonus Pearson 17. Kotoni Staggs 4. Jordan Kahu 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Anthony Milford 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Matthew Lodge 11. Alex Glenn 10. Sam Thaiday 15. Tevita Pangai Junior 12. Jaydn Su'a 13. Joe Ofahengaue 14. Patrick Mago 9. Jake Turpin 16. Korbin Sims 19. David Fifita

Referees: Henry Perenara, Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: Clayton Sharpe, Alan Shortall; Video Referees: Luke Patten, Ben Cummins;

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