The Aquis Gold Coast Titans have failed to take advantage of a strong first half when they shocked Melbourne with expansive passing and offloading, going down to the Storm 36-14 at AAMI Park.
The Titans led 8-0 after 18 minutes and 8-6 at half-time but were outplayed in the second half as Storm halfback Cooper Cronk and fullback Cameron Munster took advantage of a much-improved forwards’ effort to shift momentum quickly as soon as the teams resumed.
The Titans began the game with obvious intentions – to spread the ball and to offload whenever the opportunity arose.
It quickly unsettled the Storm and the first Titans’ set almost created a try when Kane Elgey ran the ball to the left on the last tackle but the final pass by Josh Hoffman was ruled forward, before it rebounded from Matt Duffie into touch.
But the Titans kept their expansive game flowing. First points came from a penalty goal to Aidan Sezer after nine minutes.
The first try came after 18 minutes, scored by Elgey and created by Sezer. Sezer ran the ball on the right and got through the line and found Daniel Mortimer, who began the match at hooker in place of Beau Falloon. Elgey cropped up in support and took the final pass, and Sezer landed the easy conversion for the Titans to lead 8-0.
The first half hour was dominated by the Titans, who were playing at a frantic pace, although the Storm had a try pulled back for a forward pass from Blake Green to Jesse Bromwich, Kevin Proctor lost the ball over the line and Duffie’s left arm hit the touchline as he touched down with his right.
That was the danger for the Titans. Just about every time they were into the Titans’ quarter, the Storm went close to scoring.
The Storm were on the scoreboard in the 33rd minute when Duffie, in his comeback game after a horrible run with injury, followed Cooper Cronk to the goalposts after Cronk hopped on the back of a line break down the right. Duffie just avoided the upright as he crashed over.
Cameron Smith converted for the Titans to lead 8-6 six minutes before the break.
At that stage the Titans had produced 13 offloads to Melbourne’s two but had come up with just one try. The key from there was if they could keep up the pace and confidence with the ball and tighten up defensively when the Storm marched up the field into the ‘red zone’. They couldn’t.
The momentum shifted quickly to the Storm early in the second half and they scored just three minutes after the break.
David Mead spilled a Cronk bomb under pressure and on the next play Cameron Munster went left and passed to Kurt Mann who cut two out to find Koroibete. Smith could not convert for the Storm to lead for the first time 10-8.
Just nine minutes later Cameron Duffie scored and then Duffie leapt above Kalifa Faifai Loa after a Cronk bomb and the Storm led 22-8.
In the 62nd minute came an astonishing decision that went against the Titans. Mead chased a Sezer kick to the in-goal and the ball bounced back and as he turned around to retrieve it he was clearly held back by Marika Koroibete. Referee Grant Atkins asked the video refs to look at a “possible penalty try” yet after replays showed Mead was impeded, a line drop out was ruled – no penalty, no sin bin, no penalty try!
Fortunately less than three minutes later, the call went the Titans’ way when Koroibete went up for a Sezer bomb against Mead and he knocked the ball back. The initial decision was ‘no try’, but replay showed there wasn’t a touch from Mead and Hoffman just beat Mead to the ball.
Sezer converted for the Storm’s lead to be cut to 22-14, but the comeback was short-lived. Melbourne scored three converted tries in the last nine minutes to run away with the match, with fullback Cameron Munster scoring a hat-trick and mush of their dominance coming from the boot or passing hands of Cooper Cronk.
Melbourne Storm 36 (Munster 3, Duffie 2, Koroibete, Chambers tries; Smith 4 goals) beat Aquis Gold Coast Titans 14 (Elgey, Hoffman tries; Sezer 3 goals).