Of all the Titans’ performances in 2016, which before yesterday’s loss to Melbourne could at least be described as courageous, this was the one in which the team created its own downfall.
For a side that had been completing at an average of 79 per cent of sets, and were four times over 80 per cent, errors in the first 25 minutes when the Storm were behind territorially against an aggressive Titans defence and had not made one clear line break, proved fatal and set the platform for the rest of the match.
In the first 25 minutes the Titans had 11 sets of possession. Here is the breakdown of the results after the Titans’ first set ended with a good kick to the Storm’s right corner and the Titans nailing them on the sixth tackle in their half, a perfect start to the game:
Three times the Titans coughed up possession (twice after being tackled) deep in Melbourne’s end when their defence was under pressure; twice the ball was dropped early in the count running out of the Titans’ end; there were four Titans penalties with one coming when Melbourne were in possession (but Gold Coast dropped the ball in the ensuing set after three of them, and kicked dead on the other); a David Mead kick went straight to Cheyse Blair who ran 75 metres to score; a kick by Tyrone Roberts on the last went dead.
Yet the Titans were behind only 4-0 from Blair’s runaway try after 26 minutes despite Gold Coast squandering possession and territory advantages.
Then came two penalties conceded in the Titans half, either side Storm tries to Vunivalu and Harris, and the trend of the game had changed at 14-0. And Melbourne are one team who sweat off that.
The Titans’ missed tackle count soared from there, as did the Storm’s confidence, and as coach Neil Henry said after the match “we were probably never in the game”.
However, the damage was done through the Titans’ inability to get results from the opening quarter of the game and, after spirited performances in every match in the first seven rounds, a team that had seven players who had played 26 NRL games or less, simply fell away and have lost five straight games going into the rep weekend’s bye.
KEY MATCH STATS
POSSESSION: Titans 46, Storm 54%
COMPLETION RATE: Titans 73% (22/30), Storm 93% (39/42)
ERRORS: Titans 6, Storm 5.
TACKLES: Titans 333 (missed 45), Storm 279 (missed 18)
OFFLOADS: Titans 10, Storm 10.
LINE BREAKS: Titans 1, Storm 8
PENALTIES: Storm 9-7
TOP TACKLERS: James 32, Douglas 32, Moseley 30, Taia 26, Friend 25, McQueen 25, Taylor 22, Pulu 22.
TOP METRE MAKERS: Davis 130, Macdonald 118, Mead 104, Taia 97, James 94, Roberts 90.
MOST HIT-UPS/RUNS: James 16, Roberts 13, Macdonald 13, Paasi 12, Davis 11, Bird 10, Mead 10, Douglas 10.
TOP MINUTES (forwards): Taia 80, Bird 59, James 53 McQueen 51, Moseley 46, Pulu 43, Paasi 42, Douglas 38, Friend 34, Burr 31.