NRL match preview: Round 11

This weekend the red and blues jet up to Queensland to take on the Gold Coast Titans.

And while the Knights may be low on confidence after two dispiriting losses, the Titans are searching for their first win since Round 5.

GOLD COAST TITANS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS


Date: Saturday May 19
Gates: 12.35pm
Kick-off: 3pm
Venue: Cbus Stadium
Referee: Grant Atkins

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played: 18
Knights: 10
Titans: 8

TEAMS

Newcastle
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Sione Mata'utia, 4. Nathan Ross, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Brock Lamb, 8. Herman Ese'ese, 9. Slade Griffin, 10. Josh King, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Mitch Barnett, 13. Aidan Guerra. Interchange: 14. Danny Levi, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. Jacob Saifiti 17. Daniel Saifiti, 18. Jamie Buhrer, 19. Jacob Lillyman, 20. Jack Cogger, 21. Cory Denniss.

Titans
1. Michael Gordon, 2. Anthony Don, 3. Dale Copley, 4. Brenko Lee, 5. Phillip Sami, 6. Alexander 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. Max King, 16. Jack Stockwell, 17. Moeaki Fotuaika, 18. Bryce Cartwright, 19. Konrad Hurrell, 20. Kane Elgey, 21. Morgan Boyle.

AN ATTACKING AFFAIR


The Knights and Titans have the two leakiest defences in 2018, with the Titans conceding an average of 26.7 points a game, and the Knights 26.1.

While that's nothing to boast about from a red and blue perspective, it should make for an exciting game of attacking football on Saturday.

Kalyn Ponga still leads the competition in tackle breaks (73) and ranks fifth for try assists (nine), and will be looking forward to taking on a Titans side that has been shaken by injuries and personnel changes in recent weeks.

The Titans' main attacking weapons shapes up as halfback Ashley Taylor, who equals Ponga for try-assists in 2018 and also on average handles the ball 45 times per game.

CONCENTRATION AND DISCIPLINE


While the Knights haven't had any problems scoring points when they have had their fair share of possession this year, there are still big improvements to be made in defence.

The team spent more time working on their defence than anything else in the pre-season, and will be disappointed having conceded so many points in the last few weeks.

The squad's best defensive performance came back in Round 5 against the Brisbane Broncos in what was an outstanding display, so the players are capable of putting in a shift without the ball.

What has been missing in the past few weeks is an even share of possession.

Against the Panthers, the red and blues had just 37 per cent of the ball, while against the Rabbitohs the week before it was 47 per cent.

Making errors at key moments and in the wrong parts of the field is what has hurt the Knights most recently, although coach Nathan Brown will be demanding better defence as well.

"We're certainly getting a bit harder on the players, and we need them to play like they've played 100 NRL games each," Brown said at his press conference on Wednesday.

"They're a good bunch of kids, so if we're a little harder on them, they certainly do accept it well."

UNLUCKY TITANS


While the Titans have slipped to five straight defeats, they have at times been unlucky to go down.

Back in Round 8 they were beaten by a Cronulla Sharks field goal late on, and just last week they were leading against the Melbourne Storm in the second half until injuries struck and they were left with no player on their bench.

There's been a toughness and resilience to the Titans side this year, and the Knights can't travel up there expecting an easy game.

"They have a few key players out with injury, but that doesn't mean that we go up there and take them lightly," Herman Ese'ese said earlier in the week

"Anything is possible and we need to focus on ourselves if we are to play well."

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