Titans v Panthers: Holbrook shuffles the deck; Premiers unchanged

The Titans will need to produce a stunning form turnaround if they hope to end the Panthers' unbeaten start to the season.

The Titans will need to produce a stunning form turnaround if they hope to end the Panthers' unbeaten start to the season.

After six rounds of tight contests in which their biggest winning margin was two points and their biggest loss was eight points, Justin Holbrook's men were humbled 30-4 by the Cowboys - hardly the ideal build-up for a clash with the premiers.

In stark contrast, the Panthers are flying at 7-0 and looking extremely ominous as they go in search of back-to-back titles.

With Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo, Stephen Crichton and Dylan Edwards at the peak of their powers the Panthers look all but unbeatable and it's hard to see Gold Coast stopping the juggernaut.

The Rundown
Team news

Titans: A new-look backline with AJ Brimson taking over from Jamayne Isaako at fullback, Will Smith going to five-eighth, Patrick Herbert returning to centre and Corey Thompson coming onto the wing on Thursday after Phil Sami (knee) failed to come up. 

David Fifita's return to second row pushes Kevin Proctor to the bench and Jarrod Wallace to the reserves while Moeaki Fotuaika is named to start at prop and Jaimin Jolliffe is out with a calf injury. Tanah Boyd and Herman Ese'ese join the bench.

Jayden Campbell (ribs) was listed among the reserves on Tuesday after having a run in Queensland Cup last weekend but he was left out when the squad was cut to 19 on Thursday.

Panthers: Impressive debutant Soni Luke retains his place on the bench as the Panthers go with the same 17 that took care of business against Canberra. Premiership-winning winger Brian To'o (knee) is aiming for a return in round nine.

No changes to the squad in Thursday's 24-hour update.

Key match-up
Toby Sexton v Nathan Cleary: At 21 and 11 games into his NRL career, the Titans' playmaker gets to test his skills against the best in the business and if Sexton can lead his side to an unlikely victory it would be a massive shot in the arm. Sexton needs to take control from the outset, kicking to the corners and riding his forwards to mix it up in the middle with the powerhouse Panthers pack. Cleary continues to evolve as the game's utlimate general and it'll take a very special performance to out-point him.

Stat attack
The Panthers have scored 100 more points than the Titans across the first seven rounds (220 to 120) and conceded 78 fewer points (84 to 162). The Panthers' differential of +136 was clearly the best in the NRL until the Storm ran rampant on ANZAC Day, winning by 60 and taking their differential to +141.


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