Aquis Titans fans may be disappointed with another blow-out scoreline however the team performance against competition leaders Brisbane was certainly an improvement on the previous two games, and many statistics reflect that.
Tribute has to go to the Broncos’ outstanding commitment and communication in their goal-line defence, plus a recognition that a few key plays made a significant impact on the result.
The Titans’ energy and enthusiasm was there, as recognised by Broncos coach Wayne Bennett who commented: “They came here with a fair bit of intent the Titans and had their best team out there for a month or two. They tried pretty hard.”
But after failing to convert some early opportunities and then seeing the Broncos hit back with three tries in 12 minutes, all created by in-form halfback and man of the match Ben Hunt, the Titans’ confidence is what took a dent, which was understandable. And that, and the execution that comes with confidence, plus some poor defensive reads, were the big difference on the night.
Our boys completed their sets at a season best 86 per cent (equal with the victory over the Bulldogs in round 14), going to the last tackle in 31 of their 37 sets of possession. The early sets particularly were effective but the turning point came in a period from the 13th to 27th minutes.
Kane Elgey tipped as lovely ball onto Josh Hoffman around halfway on the left edge and he broke clear and Broncos scrambled well to pull him down metres short of the line. Elgey, who had trouble keeping his feet in the first half, slipped and was caught in possession on the last tackle in the next play.
In the next defensive set the Titans conceded a penalty for a high Ryan James tackle on Justin Hodges, this was followed by a penalty in the next set for an Agnatius Paasi hand on ball, then Hunt threw was well-timed pass to Corey Parker at line, wrong-footing Paasi and it was 6-0 to the Broncos.
Darius Boyd broke through on the next set through the middle of the ruck but David Mead and Hoffman shut him down and the Titans recovered well to mount pressure at the other end. But then came another piggyback penalty, this time for a Nate Myles strip on Hodges, and from the ensuing possession Boyd brilliantly got between Elgey and Nene Macdonald on our left edge and it was 10-0.
Next time at the Broncos end, Macdonald was first in the air to an Elgey bomb but couldn’t bring the ball in. The result was a 20m tap and on the fourth tackle Hunt dummied inside and got through Paasi and Lachlan Burr then put an incredible right foot step at full pace on Hoffman and it was 16-0.
The Titans completed 15 of 18 sets in the first half, had 15 tackles in Brisbane’s 20-metre zone and made only two errors but couldn’t get over the line. Contrastingly, the Broncos’ four line breaks led to three tries.
The half ended in a bizarre way and the Broncos receiving a bonus two points when Andrew McCullough tapped the ball after another Broncos penalty as captain Justin Hodges was signalling to take a shot at goal. James legitimately tackled McCullough only for referee Adam Devcich to say play hadn’t restarted and allowed Brisbane to have a shot, which was successful for an 18-0 lead.
Again the Titans began with good intent after half-time and had a repeat set from a Sezer grubber into the in-goal when Elgey was taken out of the game with concussion from a slightly late, high shoulder charge from Adam Blair. The much-awaited scrum-base reunion of Elgey and Sezer was over after 43 minutes and Greg Bird had to go to five-eighth.
Ryan James was held up over the line in the next set but two minutes later Sezer shifted the ball to the left where Elgey would have been but instead his long ball went behind James Roberts, and was thrown backwards in a scramble, a knock on ruled and from ensuing set Milford put Jarrod Wallace over from an undetected forward pass and it was 24-0 after 46 minutes and a potential comeback thwarted.
In the 55th minute a Sezer bomb to the right almost produced a Titans’ try but the referee sent it to the video ref as a ‘no try’ and replays were inconclusive whether Mead or Corey Oates touch it before Bird touched down. It was typical of fate on the night.
Errors in possession gave the Broncos their last two try-scoring opportunities and defensive misreads gave tries to Kodi Nikorima from dummy half and Glenn from Millford off a scrum.
And those efforts summed up the match. On their try-line the Broncos were faultless, their precision with the ball came from constant winning (this was their eighth in a row) and while the Titans competed hard, they paid for errors with and without the ball and couldn’t convert possession and territory to points. But their effort was there, although the missed tackle count of 35 - consistent with many matches this season - was still too high.
Scoring just three tries in the past four - and none in the past two - is obviously an issue but hopefully Elgey willbe cleared to play next Monday night against the Eels and the Elgey-Sezer combination can be seen for 80 minutes.
“We talked about it being an improved effort, we had 14 attacking efforts in the second half but couldn’t get the ball over the line,” said coach Neil Henry of a team that has scored just two tries in four games after being creatively successful in the first half of the season.
“The Broncos’ defensive commitment was outstanding. They’re defending very well and that’s why they are where they are [on the ladder] and that’s probably an indication of where they are and where we are and there is a gulf at the moment.”
POSSESSION: Titans 53%, Broncos 47%
COMPLETIONS: Titans 84% (31/37), Broncos 77% (30/39)
METRES: Broncos 1680m, Titans 1564m.
TACKLES MADE: Titans 325 (35 missed), Broncos 347 (13).
PENALTIES: Broncos 7-6.
TOP TACKLERS: Douglas 34, Pettybourne 32, James 32, Falloon 30, Burr 28, Paasi 27.
METRES GAINED: Hoffman 176 (17 carries), Gordon 141 (14), Pettybourne 134 (14), Mead 119 (11), Roberts 114 (12), White 114 (11)
MINUTES PLAYED (forwards): Bird 80, James 68, Paasi 64, Falloon 52, Douglas 51, Burr 49, Pettybourne 49, White 41, Redman 40, Myles 22.