Digital Image by Anthony Johnson copyright © nrlphotos.com:  Chad Redman : 2015 NRL Round 19 -   Newcastle Knights vs Gold Coast Titans at Hunter Stadium Sunday July 18th 2015

There was a short turnaround from Monday night’s game and irregular scheduling – no game for 15 days after a spirited loss to the Roosters, then backing-up five days later. And now it’s a trip up the motorway for the derby clash with the Broncos six days later.

However, a week’s score sheet of 68-8 against teams who were below us on the ladder is disappointing. And more so, was the way the games were lost: after competing hard and aggressively for 17 rounds the Aquis Titans were just not in the contest after the first 20-25 minutes against Manly and Newcastle – and that is uncharacteristic of what this group has done this season.

And the Titans players know they have to take ownership of that. It was evident in a frank team discussion in the dressing room soon after full-time.

“The conditions were hard but we weren’t in the game and I know that I wasn’t dominant enough,” said halfback Kane Elgey who was playing his first match since round 13 and had to retune his skills into a howling wind and rain coming horizontally into his face in the first half.

“Sure I had seven weeks off but that’s no excuse, I have to be better if I want to play first grade.”

Josh Hoffman, back to the fullback after having to fill in at five-eighth with the sorely missed Aidan Sezer out with a hamstring injury, wasn’t looking for excuses either although he too conceded conditions were difficult in the first half particularly when the Titans conceded 20 points.

“It was every fullback’s worst nightmare, it is tough when you have someone with the experience like Jarrod Mullen who can turn the ball anyway when he puts it up,” he conceded when asked about the Tasmania-like weather. “But being uncustomed to that position I know my role but I didn’t do my best for the boys and I have to do better.”

The completion rate was again nowhere near the team target required to win tough NRL games, nor was what was done with the possession the team had the ball. The Titans have the competition’s worst completion rate at 70 per cent (and have been over 80 per cent only twice in 17 games), and kept possession for only 21 of 38 sets (55 per cent) while the Knights completed at 76 per cent in the same difficult conditions.

At 20-2 behind at half-time – after conceding three tries in the space of 10 minutes during which the Titans had only one set of possession (and lost it on the fourth tackle) – the Titans were still in the match considering there was such a strong wind at their backs, the rain had stopped, that Newcastle had 65 per cent of the first half possession and were down to 15 players with hooker Tyler Randell and centre Dane Gagai out of the game.

But the killer punch came just two minutes into the second half when Mullen, who had tortured the Titans with his kicking game, decided to run the ball to the left on the last tackle and 50 metres later took an inside pass from James McManus to score and thwart the chance of Gold Coast getting quickly back into the match.

There was certainly character in repelling wave after wave of Knights’ attack on the try-line in the final 25 minutes, a positive to be taken into Friday night’s clash with Brisbane where, perhaps, Sezer may return coming off the back of the comebacks of Greg Bird, who was busy and enthusiastic against the Knights, Elgey and hooker Beau Falloon in the past fortnight.

KEY STATS

POSSESSION: Titans 45%, Knights 55%

COMPLETIONS: Titans 55% (21/38), Knights 76% (35/46)

METRES: Knights 1773m, Titans 1118m.

TACKLES MADE: Titans 399 (39 missed), Knights 290 (18).

PENALTIES: Titans 9-7.

TOP TACKLERS: Falloon 39, Douglas 38, Bird 37, James 33, Mortimer 32.

METRES GAINED: Douglas 158 (17 carries), Bird 147 (16), Macdonald 128 (14 carries), Taylor 109 (9), Hoffman 94 (14).

MINUTES PLAYED (forwards): James 80, Bird 80, Douglas 61, Falloon 57, Taylor 53, Pettybourne 52, Myles 38, Paasi 32, Redman 32, Peteru 24.