Taylor and Cleary battle to save their clubs’ seasons

Jack Aubrey Roar Guru

By Jack Aubrey, Jack Aubrey is a Roar Guru

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    The Panthers and Titans were the two surprise packets of 2016 but on Saturday they will do battle to keep their finals flame flickering.

    While it is not sudden death just yet, the Titans in particular are desperate to win and stay within touch of eighth spot on the ladder, shakily held by the Dragons at the moment.

    The Panthers are a win above the Titans, and don’t want to have their momentum halted as they keep their late-season surge going. If the Panthers lose on Saturday they will be joined by the Titans on eight wins. Either side would then likely need to win at least four out of their last six

    Both last start winners, the Panthers and Titans had plenty to be optimistic about last round, off the back of their respective half-backs Nathan Cleary and Ashley Taylor.

    The Panthers on Friday night had Matt Moylan withdraw late against the Warriors in Auckland. Already missing seasoned campaigner Peter Wallace, and having stand in captain Trent Merrin leave the field 27 minutes in, it was a Panthers side low on experience, even for them.

    Nathan Cleary went to another gear on the night. He scored three of his own, laid on two, and started a movement for debutant Tyrone May to score. In what was another must win clash, the Warriors far more experienced spine still couldn’t get the job done against a red-hot Cleary.

    Cleary has been solid without being outstanding in his second season, but his game on Friday was of the highest order. He took the game by the scruff of the neck and did it all himself on three occasions. The Panthers will need more of the same from him, and his accurate goal kicking if they are to get over the Titans on Saturday.

    Little more than 24 hours later and Ash Taylor was the star of the show on a sodden Gold Coast against the reigning premiers.

    Ashley Taylor Gold Coast Titans NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Two tries and two assists says it all from a young man who will no doubt play more rep football, perhaps against his opposite number at the Panthers.

    While the conditions won’t be the same this Saturday, Taylor played them perfectly against the Sharks. Like Cleary he could do it all. Whether he chose to run, kick or pass, it was the right option, and he is the man the Titans need to keep their season going.

    So who wins this Saturday?

    The Titans are more than a chance. They have won three in a row, their latest against the premiers, and they are starting to get their full complement back on the park.

    With no shortage of strike players in Konrad Hurrell, Jarryd Hayne, Tony Don and now Taylor finding some form they would be a side that teams would fear in the finals. Goal kicking can certainly be a worry though, and in a game that might go to the wire, they need to be turning four into six.

    The Panthers had a hiccup against the Rabbitohs a fortnight ago and looked gone for the season. Aside from that in the last eight weeks they have won six times and were beaten by the Cowboys by two at the death. They are a desperate and went on a run not dissimilar to this 12 months ago.

    The Panthers may also have Moylan, Wallace and Merrin to come back into the side.

    This could be the game of the round. Neither side is a noted defensive unit, and both have laid some quality attack on at points this season.

    This could come down to which number seven can best replicate their last performance. It may be one of those games where either is called upon in the clutch to lay on a try, slot a conversion, or be the golden-point hero.

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • July 18th 2017 @ 8:45am
      Wild Eagle said | July 18th 2017 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      I predicted NSW to win the origin series 3 nil and last year I thought young Cleary would be the half back despite his age. Neither of these were right.

      When Saints were near the top of the table and Panthers were near the bottom a couple of months ago I predicted that they would swap positions on the table in a fashion. I could be wrong again but this has been my only prediction to do with the NRL all season and the gut feel was pretty strong. I had forgotten to an extent how good Cleary is and hopefully he becomes NSW’s long term saviour.

      There is so much to admire about the Titans though and I would be happy for them to keep winning.

    • Roar Rookie

      July 18th 2017 @ 9:12am
      Joe said | July 18th 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      The two most promising young halves in the competition do battle to keep their teams season alive. This is going to be a great game. Probably the future of NSW and QLD with these two. They’ve got pretty good strike power in both teams and they both play very good attacking footy. I think the home ground advantage will be the difference although that said Titans have done ok away this season.

    • July 18th 2017 @ 10:09am
      Birdy said | July 18th 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      Can’t agree more Joe.
      Titans were riddled with injuries and are now coming home strong.
      Penrith, apparently riddled with an in house scandal had some pundits calling for the Hooks head.
      All seems good now.
      The Pennies are my dark horse for a big surge into the finals.

    • July 18th 2017 @ 12:56pm
      Albo said | July 18th 2017 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

      I think it is a sudden death round for both Panthers & Titans. I actually think you will need 30 points this year to get into the 8 and St George hold that spot currently on 22 points and with a reasonable draw . 4 wins from 7 gets St George to 30 points and this is a very feasible outcome with their draw. So Penrith will need to win 5 from 7 and the Titans 6 from 7 to get to 30 points. I give only the Panthers a chance of pinching 8th spot from St George. Just can’t see the Titans, Raiders , Warriors, Dogs winning 6 of their 7 matches with their current form and the draws they have.

    • Roar Rookie

      July 18th 2017 @ 10:32pm
      Bunney said | July 18th 2017 @ 10:32pm | ! Report

      Yep – looking forward to this. If the Titans lose, its pretty much curtains for them. If they win, and Manly beat the Dragons as expected, there’ll be 2 points separating the Titans from the 8.

      Go Ash Taylor.
      Go the Don
      Go the Titans

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