An emphatic second-half comeback has guided the Aquis Gold Coast Titans to a convincing 30-18 victory over the previously unbeaten Wests Tigers at Cbus Super Stadium tonight.
After an error-riddled first-half with a completion rate of only 68 per cent and a season high of 11 missed tackles, the Titans went into the half-time break trailing 10-6 – and only after a solo try from dummy-half by Daniel Mortimer in the 38th minute - after the Tigers led 10-0 from two tries in the first 15 minutes.
But whatever coach Neil Henry said at the break worked with the Titans putting together a near-perfect second-half to get their completion rate up to 80 per cent and score four unanswered tries in a 20-minute period to register their second home ground win for the year in front of a 9975 strong crowd.
There were several strong performers, including halfback Ash Taylor two days after celebrating his 21st – further celebrations came with 14 points from a try and five goals.
Henry said he was proud of his side’s effort to come back from the deficit and come away with the win in the tough conditions.
“It wasn’t a pretty start, for the first two rounds the Wests Tigers have come out of the block and they’ve really started fast and furious and they did the same today,” he said.
“They were getting through our tackles and finding their front to get some momentum around the ruck and we came up with a poor read which gave them easy points early in the game.
“We fought back and I thought the last 20 minutes before half-time we started to get some field position which lead to points and I though the table turned a little bit.
“We came into half-time down by four but in a game and I thought we had the ascendancy. We started the second half really well.
“We will take the win and we’re building a bit of momentum at home. That’s a couple of wins here now for our fans, they know we can play a brand of football that is tough. And we can hang in when the Tigers had some real possession and went 10-0 up and we can come back and score some nice tries.
“There’s a bit of resilience in the team, we need to be better defensively and that’s something we’re working on each week and we’ll need to be good down in Canberra as they’re a big physical team that we need to get in-front of and stop their roll on.”
With the reduced interchange numbers this year, player replacement is a vital part of the game and Henry said he was happy with his bench’s performance leading from the front to assist changing the momentum of the match.
“Ryan James was really good off the bench, he lifted the tempo which was great and Leivaha Pulu had a lot of energy when he came on,” he said.
“We didn’t have much possession and they were running through us a bit and we were tanking a bit defensively but when those two came on we started to control the ball better and we got a bit more spark in our defence and I think that really helped the rest of the boys out there.
“Our bench did a really good job at changing the momentum for us. I was pleased that for large patches until those last two tries that we really did control the game.”
Captain Nathan Friend said despite the poor start there were some impressive patches throughout the game.
“The Tigers started well but we let them into the game, we were going sideways and offloading the ball in the first set,” he said.
“The boys started straightening up and going direct and we saw the points come our way, it’s quite a simple game plan but it worked against the Tigers tonight.
“We’re really pleased that we can put 30 on teams but it’s the other side that we really need to concentrate on, it was 10 points but then they scored two late tries which is not what we’re about.”
It was the Tigers who opened the scoring in the sixth minute after back-to-back penalties gifted the away-side prime attacking position and they took full advantage with a classy backline play resulting in Kevin Naiqama slicing through the defence for a 4-0 lead.
The Tigers extended their lead in the 16th minute after David Mead allowed a Mitchell Moses bomb to bounce before Kyle Lovett collected it and threw a miracle pass back inside to Naiqama to grab his second of the night. Moses right boot then added the extras to give the Tigers a 10-0 lead.
An error from the Tigers coming out of their own end gifted the Titans prime attacking position and they took full advantage in the 38th minute with utility hooker Mortimer burrowing his way across the line from dummy-half before Ash Taylor added the extras to reduce the Tigers lead back to 10-6 going into the half-time break.
The Titans were under pressure early in the second-half but managed to turn defence into attack with Mead cleaning up the scraps of a Tigers error to race 80 metres downfield. In the following play the Titans spread the ball to Josh Hoffman to score after catching the Tigers retreating defence out before Taylor added the extras to give the Titans a 12-10 lead.
The Titans capitalised on another Tigers error and extended their lead through Ryan James who barged his way across the line to score next to the posts giving give Taylor an easy conversion and the Titans an 18-10 lead with just over 25 minutes remaining.
With the momentum in their favour the Titans extended their lead in the 60th minute when Taylor and Hoffman combined to register the side’s third try in under 15 minutes. It all started with a Taylor inside ball which put Hoffman in the clear before the young halfback supported the play to slide over and register his first try in Titans colours before converting his own try for a 24-10 lead.
The Titans continued their second-half dominance in the following set with Nene Macdonald outleaping his opponents to reel in a Tyrone Roberts bomb to score out-wide before Taylor added the extras to extend the Titans lead out to 30-10 with just over 15 minutes remaining.
The Tigers scored two late consolation tries with Naiqama grabbing his hat trick and former Titan Jordan Rankin crossing to reduce the full-time deficit back to 30-18.
The Titans will look to continue their winning ways when they take on the Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium next Saturday.
Gold Coast Titans 30 (D Mortimer, J Hoffman, R James, A Taylor, N Macdonald tries; A Taylor 5 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 18 (W Naiqama 3, J Rankin tries; M Moses 1 goals)