The Aquis Gold Coast Titans showed tremendous character yet again to fight back into the contest after giving their opponents a big lead but could not rein in Brisbane Broncos at Cbus Super Stadium tonight.
Despite a late second-half comeback that included a double to Zeb Taia, the Titans suffered a 24-16 loss to the Broncos in the South-East Queensland derby before a great crowd of over 21,000.
Poor starts to both halves, which saw the Broncos score tries in the opening three minutes, proved costly.
After going into the half-time break trailing 10-4, the Titans went into the final half hour trailing 22-4 but mounted their courageous comeback with Taia's two tries on the left edge, four minutes apart after rtaking the final pass from Daniel Mortimer twice, reducing the margin back to 22-16 and bringing the crowd alive.
But the Broncos put an end to the Titans’ comeback efforts in the 77th minute after receiving a penalty in-front of the posts to take the shot at goal and the 24-16 victory. It was a similar scenario to the corresponding match last year when the Titans came back from 18-0 down to 24-16 before going down 26-16 after a late Broncos penalty.
Coach Neil Henry said against such a quality side as the Broncos, the early deficit proved too difficult to claw back.
“We have a bit of a habit of conceding points early and we’ve been chasing points for a few games this year so we certainly need to start a bit better than we did tonight,” he said.
“It’s a credit that we’re still in games, we’re coming back and there’s a bit of fight there but the Broncos are a really good side who don’t give you much and we weren’t good enough.
“We really didn’t get any momentum early, we were a bit shell-shocked and they got some early points and we didn’t really get into the flow of the game until too late.
“There was a 15 minute period where we started to get ascendancy in that first-half and I thought we started to spark up a bit.
“We needed to make a couple of plays at the back end of the game and we got ourselves into the position to strike but we didn’t take the next step and the experiences sides like the Broncos find a way to do that.
“This group we played tonight, the Broncos, are a very good defensive side and you’re not going to get any latitude so we can’t rely on chasing points and getting back into games.
“We need to build on the back of being in games and stay resilient and we will win a few games as we won’t go away, but not tonight.
“I’m very happy with our character, I think our fans will go away saying we’ve got a bit of ticker and character and they’re hanging in there with a chance to win the game. I thought we had a few Broncos fans a bit nervous which is good.”
Henry also said he was pleased with his side’s ability to handle the reshuffle due to David Shillington late withdrawal from a hip-flexor injury sustained in the warm-up.
“Shillo strained his hip-flexor in the warm-up which was a bit of a blow but we had Lachlan Burr to come on. It disrupted us a bit with our plans, but we had to cope with that.
“We’ve got some guys with a lot of experience in the NRL and some guys with next-to-none and it’s a real learning curve with the atmosphere that we had here for the guys who haven’t played a lot of games.
“We need to take it for what it is, we’re disappointed but I think it was a huge effort by the boys.”
It was the visitors who opened the scoring in the third minute through former Titan James Roberts who showed great speed to outpace his opposite number to score in the corner and give the Broncos a 4-0 lead.
The Broncos looked certain to extend their lead in the ninth minute when bulking winger Corey Oates got into the clear but fullback David Mead pulled off a great tackle to deny the winger getting the ball down.
The Broncos broke the stalemate in the 24th minute when crafty halfback Ben Hunt sliced his way through the retreating Titans defence before showing some great determination to plant-the-ball down. With Corey Parker adding the extras the Broncos took a 10-0 lead.
A penalty piggy-backed the Titans up the field and they took full advantage of their prime attacking position in the 33rd minute when Mead collected a perfectly placed Ash Taylor grubber to roll across the line and reduce the deficit back to 10-4.
The Titans’ defence was tested in the final minutes of the half with the Broncos earning repeat sets but the Titans held strong to go into the half-time break trailing 10-4.
The Broncos started the second-half strongly and scored in the 44th minute when they opted to run it on the last play with Darius Boyd throwing a lovely cut-out pass to put Jordan Kahu over in the corner. With Parker off the field, Kahu converted his own try to give the visitors a 16-4 lead.
The Broncos extended their lead in the 58th minute when utility Kodi Nikorima sliced through the defence from dummy-half to plant the ball down before Parker converted to give the away-side a 22-4 lead.
The Titans comeback efforts got underway in the 64th minute when forward Zeb Taia cleaned up the scraps of a wobbly Daniel Mortimer dummy-half pass to score next to the posts to give Taylor an easy conversion to reduce the Broncos lead out to 22-10.
It was the Taia and Mortimer show for the Titans with the two players combining again in the 68th minute this time with Mortimer drawing-and-passing to Taia to score his second try before Taylor added the extras to reel the score-line back to 22-16 and ensure an exciting final ten minutes.
The Broncos put an end to any comeback efforts in the 77th minute when Kahu converted a penalty kick to extend their lead out beyond a converted try to seal the 24-16 win.
The Titans will look to hit back next week when they take on the Cronulla Sharks.
Brisbane Broncos 24 (J Roberts, B Hunt, J Kahu, K Nikorima tries; C Parker 2, J Kahu 2 goals) defeated Gold Coast Titans 16 (Z Taia, D Mead tries; A Taylor 2 goals). Crowd: 21,108.