The Titans boast the only win by a Queensland team so far in 2021 and will look to entrench their north-of-the-border dominance against the Cowboys after disposing of Brisbane in round two.
Hyped on the back of their five-game winning streak to finish 2020 in ninth place and off-season recruiting class headed by forwards David Fifita and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Gold Coast stumbled out of the gate with an uninspiring 18-6 loss to the New Zealand Warriors.
But a dominant performance by their star recruits, including a trademark two-try performance by hard-charging Fifita, has put the hype train back on track as they head into the second leg of their Queensland double.
The Cowboys also turned in a much-improved performance against the Dragons, after failing to trouble the scorers in their opener against Penrith, but a lack of composure saw them fall short of victory.
Cowboys v Titans
Match: Cowboys v Titans
Round 3 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Cowboys: A late reshuffle in the backline with Valentine Holmes moving to his preferred fullback position and Scott Drinkwater going to five-eighth with Ben Hampton dropping out. Shane Wright was the other player to drop out and hour before kick-off.
Justin O'Neill has come off the reserves list to play wing in jersey 18.
Michael Morgan (shoulder) and Peter Hola were omitted on Saturday.
Second-rower Coen Hess suffered a burner injury against the Dragons but will play.
Murray Taulagi will replace suspended winger Kyle Feldt, who copped a two-week ban for his tackle on Dragons centre Jack Bird.
Payten elected to stick with Reuben Cotter at No.13 as forward leader Jason Taumalolo's (broken hand) replacement despite a spirited challenge from veteran Josh McGuire. Cotter was the team's Players' Player against St George Illawarra.
The Cowboys have won 10 of their past 11 games against the Titans.
Titans: Tyrone Peachey has been brought into the starting side at lock with Tino Fa'asuamaleaui shifting to prop and Moeaki Fotuaika to the bench.
Beau Fermor and Sam Stone were omitted an hour before kick-off.
A hand injury has sidelined five-eighth Ash Taylor for at least a few weeks. Tanah Boyd will make his second start at No.6 in Taylor's place.
Phillip Sami will continue to deputise in the centres with Brian Kelly (fractured hand) scheduled to return in round five.
Herman Ese'ese and Sam McIntyre dropped out of the squad 24 hours before kick-off.
The Titans have not won in Townsville since 2012.
Match: Cowboys v Titans
Round 3 -
Fullback for Cowboys is number 5 Valentine HolmesFullback for Titans is number 1 Alexander Brimson
Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Murray TaulagiWinger for Titans is number 2 Anthony Don
Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Esan MarstersCentre for Titans is number 3 Phillip Sami
Centre for Cowboys is number 4 Hamiso Tabuai-FidowCentre for Titans is number 4 Patrick Herbert
Winger for Cowboys is number 18 Justin O'NeillWinger for Titans is number 5 Corey Thompson
Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 1 Scott DrinkwaterFive-Eighth for Titans is number 6 Tanah Boyd
Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Jake CliffordHalfback for Titans is number 7 Jamal Fogarty
Prop for Cowboys is number 8 Francis MoloProp for Titans is number 8 Jarrod Wallace
Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Reece RobsonHooker for Titans is number 9 Mitch Rein
Prop for Cowboys is number 10 Jordan McLeanProp for Titans is number 13 Tino Fa'asuamaleaui
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 11 Mitchell Dunn2nd Row for Titans is number 11 Kevin Proctor
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Coen Hess2nd Row for Titans is number 12 David Fifita
Lock for Cowboys is number 13 Reuben CotterLock for Titans is number 14 Tyrone Peachey
Interchange for Cowboys is number 14 Jake GranvilleInterchange for Titans is number 10 Moeaki Fotuaika
Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 Josh McGuireInterchange for Titans is number 15 Sam Lisone
Interchange for Cowboys is number 16 Corey JensenInterchange for Titans is number 16 Jaimin Jolliffe
Interchange for Cowboys is number 17 Lachlan BurrInterchange for Titans is number 17 Erin Clark
- Referee: Peter Gough
- Touch Judge: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
- Touch Judge: Wyatt Raymond
- Senior Review Official: Alan Shortall
Reuben Cotter v Tino Fa'asumaleaui: Jason Taumalolo's understudy Cotter already faced a massive challenge replacing the NRL's most-damaging No.13 and it doesn't get any easier this week when he is expected to hold his own against one of the game's rising stars.
Highly touted ex-Storm impact player Fa'asuamaleaui is relishing his elevation to the starting line-up on the Gold Coast, averaging 60 minutes a game while dishing out plenty of punishment in defence and imposing his will with the ball in hand.
The Titans will have to clean up their act if they are to fulfil the high hopes fans and critics have for them this season. After two rounds they are ranked second for errors with 30 (just one behind leaders the Cowboys and equal with the third member of the Queensland triumvirate Brisbane) and second in ineffective tackles with 43 to No.1 Parramatta's 47.
What will be the result in this Telstra Premiership clash?
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