It was a match in which the Titans’ physicality and enthusiasm had to be admired as they forced errors from a full-strength Sydney Roosters side that had no less than 12 State of Origin or Aussie and Kiwi players in their line-up.
If there was a bit more polish to the ends of their sets, and a couple of bounces went their way, pundits who were tipping the Roosters to win by 30 points or the betting agencies who posted the Titans at odds of $7, might have been talking about one of the upsets of the season.
Nine Titans players in the 17 had played less than 50 NRL games going into the match – Chad Redman (4), Agnatius Paasi (9), Nene McDonald (12), Lachlan Burr (13), Mark Ioane (23), Matt Robinson (36), Anthony Don (41), James Roberts (42) and Kalifa Faifai Loa (46).
Add the fact that fullback Josh Hoffman had to play halfback with centre James Roberts at five-eighth for the first half before Daniel Mortimer slotted back to No. 7 and 13-day Titan Chad Redman to hooker, cohesion was going to be affected.
A crucial window came just before half-time when fullback David Mead was caught in possession on the last tackle and from the turnover the Roosters scored in the opposite corner when James Maloney scored as the hooter sounded.
The score at the break was 18-4 rather than 12-4 or even 12-10 had the Titans been able to take advantage of the good ball they had in the period just before, it could well have been another result.
The Roosters completed their first 11 sets of possession and had more than 60 per cent of possession in the first half hour yet scored only two tries as the Titans stuck solid defensively, and aggressively, for long periods. But in the second half they squandered possession terribly, and finished with just a 58 per cent completion rate.
Gold Coast did score the first (and only try) of the second half of the second half, to Nene Macdonald from a grubber from Mortimer, who as usual was tireless, to make the score 18-10 but they just weren’t able to mount enough pressure or keep constant possession to extend their tally.
Having said that, the Titans had to play an expansive and imaginative game to beat the Roosters, and they did as seern by their 20 offloads to the Roosters' eight.
Defensively, it was a tremendous effort. Roosters’ Kiwi prop Jared Waerea- Hargreaves spilled the ball twice in the first half under heavy artillery from the Titans forwards and their backs were often forced into error too.
Agnatius Paasi, who started in the second row and played his first full NRL match, was tremendous while Nate Myles, in his 200th NRL game, made 40 tackles with many of them first-up efforts that stopped opponents in their tracks. Mortimer topped the tackle count again with 46 and had Waerea- Hargreaves running at him often but brought him down with low technique.
Macdonald, against the club he was representing two weeks earlier, was involved in a lively battle with Blake Ferguson and ended up making the most metres for the Titans (202) and came up with the first of what may be many tries for his new team. In his first two matches he has looked a genuine high quality prospect.
The Titans were missing the team’s form player in Ryan James, Test back-rower Greg Bird, the two in-form halves from the winning runs of earlier this season in key playmakers Aidan Sezer and Kane Elgey, hookers Beau Falloon, Kierran Moseley and Matt Srama and fullback/centre and vice-captain William Zillman.
The balance of the team was thrown out of kilter more than any time this season yet the Titans held one of the top three premiership favourites, who were missing not one player from their strongest side, to three tries and outscored them by 6-0 for 39 minutes of the second half.
A 63 per cent completion rate and 46 missed tackles would have concerned coach Neil Henry – but not the desire or effort.
POSSESSION: Titans 52%, Roosters 48%
COMPLETIONS: Titans 63% (22/35), Roosters 58% (25/43)
METRES: Roosters 1675m, Titans 1512m.
TACKLES MADE: Titans 315 (46), Roosters 322 (26 missed).
PENALTIES: Roosters 7-3.
TOP TACKLERS: Mortimer 46, Myles 40, Paasi 43, Douglas 42, Burr 28, Robinson 22.
METRES GAINED: Macdonald 202 (19 carries), Loa 149 (15), Mead 142 (16), Don 138 (9), Taylor 116 (12), Pettybourne 98 (13).
MINUTES PLAYED (forwards): Paasi 80, Mortimer 73, Robinson 64, Myles 57, Burr 50, Pettybourne 49, Douglas 48, Redman 43, White 21, Ioane 18.