Experienced Aquis Titans back-rower Zeb Taia has praised the mental fortitude in his new Titans team but says they will continue to be punished for giving good teams head starts.
The Titans' leading try-scorer through five rounds with four tries, Taia's first double in the NRL since Round 3, 2011 dragged Gold Coast back into the contest against Brisbane on Friday night but again they were forced to come from 10 points behind.
A bond forged in a three-day pre-season Army camp helped the Titans claw their way back from 22-6 down against Brisbane to get within striking distance at 22-16 before a late penalty goal secured the Broncos an eight-point win.
The crowd of 21,080 was the largest at Cbus Super Stadium in three years and Taia believes the young members of the Titans' squad can take plenty of confidence into Sunday's clash with Cronulla at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
"That was probably the biggest game of the year for us and we know what it tastes like now," Taia told NRL.com.
"They're the benchmark of the comp so we can take a bit of confidence from that game and take it into next week against Cronulla.
"We'll be going down to Cronulla really confident but we can't keep giving teams head starts like that.
"It's not a good way to win games. We want to grind them out from the first minute to the 80th.
"We've learnt over the pre-season with all those Army camps and stuff that we've got a mentally strong side here and the boys know when to step up and I thought they did that.
"It was a big stage, Friday night footy against probably the best team in the comp, there are good signs there. The boys are confident but there are a few things we need to fix."
Taia's performances on the Titans' left edge in the opening five weeks have been hailed by many as better than what he produced in his previous eight-year stint in the NRL with Parramatta and Newcastle.
In 77 games for Catalans in the Super League Taia scored 36 tries and has become something of a go-to man close to the opposition try-line for the Titans, scoring four tries in five games thus far, equalling his best try-scoring haul for a season in the NRL.
Now 31 years of age, Taia said that his determination to leave a mark on the NRL stems from watching games on TV from France for the past two years.
"It's just the drive that I had. Watching the NRL for the last two seasons I always wanted to come back and I was looking for an opportunity and when this came up I jumped at it," said Taia, who played 80 minutes for the third time this season against Brisbane.
"It is a bit of a challenge and I feel like I'm improving week in and week out but definitely need to fix a few things defensively."
This story first appeared on nrl.com.au