The iSelect Gold Coast Titans have made a mouth-watering opening to the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines with a 22-7 win over the Wests Tigers.
Boasting a 92 per cent completion rate, there was plenty for the Titans squad circa 2014 and coach John Cartwright to smile about under sunny NZ skies.
The only concern surrounds a leg injury to goliath Dave Taylor, who started this tournament in the same steam-rolling fashion he ended the 2013 NRL season.
Immediately after the game coach John Cartwright reported that Taylor appeared to be suffering from a bad cork and would be an unlikely starter for the remainder of the tournament.
That prognosis, while disappointing, is better than the initial fears of a calf injury.
Cartwright was particularly happy with his team’s defence, which leaked just the one try. He was also rapt with Taylor’s involvement and the club’s speedsters, who cut the Tigers apart on the edges.
The Titans embraced all that is great about the NRL’s pre-season extravaganza – attack, attack attack.
Their five tries to one was an indication of how comprehensive their opening performance was.
With just 70 seconds on the clock Titans fans thought their account was about to open when speedster Albert Kelly intercepted close to his own line. However his raid downfield ended just before the tryline.
The points did come just over two minutes later with winger Kevin Gordon teasing the outside defence with a try in the corner from a good Taylor bust and David Mead pass.
Taylor made an imprint moments later which led to the Titans second try - to club newcomer Paul Carter.
There was little time for fans to digest that before David Mead scored wide out after a break from another Gold Coast new face - Brad Tighe.
With drop kicks the only form of conversion, there were no extras to the first three tries and the Titans went to the break up 12-0.
The Tigers wrestled momentum back with a try early in the second half to flyer James Tedesco. However the reply was swift with another club debutante Siuatonga Likiliki barging over, with Kelly adding the first successful conversion to put the Titans up 18-7.
In the shadows of fulltime William Zillman flicked a sneaky backhander to give Kalifa Faifai Loa a narrow passge to the line – and the Titans their opening scoreline - 22-7.
Coach Cartwright was especially impressed with his team’s defence.
“Our focus has been our defence. Even the one they scored they had to work really hard for,’’ he said.
“We have some good speed and power. Dave (Taylor) was unstoppable when he was out there. But the whole game goes so quick. There is no room for structure You have to rely on the skill and the vision of the players who are out there.
“I was very happy with that first game. It is warm. Our defence was great. If we keep doing that we will win more than we lose.”
The Titans next clash in the Nines will be this afternoon at 1.45pm (Gold Coast time) versus the Newcastle Knights, who lost the tournament opener 15-12 to the Sharks.
William Zillman, Brad Tighe, David Mead, Kevin Gordon, Albert Kelly, Greg Bird, Ashley Harrison, Anthony Don, Paul Carter, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Brad Takairangi, Mark Minichiello, Maurice Blair, Luke Bailey, Siuatonga Likiliki, David Taylor.
James Tedesco, Pat Richards, Bodene Thompson, Marika Koroibete, Mitchell Moses, Blake Austin, Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah (c), Martin Taupau, Cory Paterson, Curtis Sironen, Adam Blair, Manaia Cherrington, Kurtis Rowe, James Gavet, Ben Murdoch-Masila (17th Man: Delouise Hoeter).
Score details: Titans 22 (tries: Gordon; Carter; Mead; Likiliki; Faifai Loa. Conversion: Kelly) d Wests Tigers 7 (Tedesco (5pt try). Conv: Richards).