Perhaps it was the Titans’ most complete performance of the season – certainly the most controlled.
It began with the kicking games of Tyrone Roberts and Ash Taylor providing early momentum. A repeat set from a Taylor grubber into the in-goal then a Nene Macdonald try from an inch-perfect Roberts bomb to the left corner.
It was Macdonald’s fourth try of the season from snatching a bomb from the boot of Roberts in the left corner
Macdonald scored another from an intercept (his second of the season) which puts him equal on top of the team’s try-scorers with eight – six coming in the past four games.
The Titans completed 20 or their first 21 sets and 27 of their first 30 before some errors crept in during the back end of the match and final completions were 33 from 39, which is still an excellent 85 per cent.
The win came off the back of good completions, good control of that possession and some touches of class in tries to Nathan Peats, David Mead and Anthony Don (from a signature bust from Konrad Hurrell).
Yet it was the not so obvious work from the not so heralded players that has been the cornerstone of victories like this.
While Agnatius Paasi and Ryan James played fewer minutes than usual, Leivaha Pulu’s work in defence was outstanding with him getting into position to make some crucial stops.
Eddy Pettybourne, who has had a frustrating stop-start season because of injury, punched out 32 minutes and was looking more confident.
Zeb Taia, who won the Channel 9 man of the match award, was the only 80-minute forward and did some clever things.
The thing about this Titans side, now in seventh position after many had tipped a last place before a ball had been kicked, is the obvious potential improvement considering several factors.
Peats and Hurrell, who looked for work and will only improve from his second match for the club (and a relieving 80-minute performance), have been added since season’s start. Hurrell stands as the wild card as he gets more games under his belt.
Pulu had not played an NRL game before 2016 but has not missed one since and is now a more confident and reliable performer.
Pettybourne’s season is hopefully just warming up, Taylor and Roberts’ combination is still developing and their impact is stronger when they threaten to run.
Mead, at fullback, was having his first game for nine weeks, Josh Hoffman’s form has been outstanding for many weeks and he is the sharpest he has looked in his two seasons as a Titan while Macdonald is getting himself more involved and there is no better snatched of a bomb in the NRL right now.
It has to be conceded that the Dragons, down some key players, were far from impressive. But the Titans did dominate.
The next three weeks, at home against Parramatta, Cronulla and the Warriors – is crucial … but also an opportunity for the momentum to build further.
KEY MATCH STATS
POSSESSION: Titans 52%, Dragons 48%
COMPLETION RATE: Titans 85% (33/39), Dragons 71% (24/34)
ERRORS: Titans 8, Dragons 8.
TACKLES: Titans 374 (missed 27), Dragons 367 (missed 25)
OFFLOADS: Titans 12, Dragons 9.
LINE BREAKS: Titans 5, Dragons 4
PENALTIES: Titans 4, Dragons 3.
TOP TACKLERS: Chris McQueen 45, Nathan Peats 43, Zeb Taia 39, Greg Bird 33, Ryan James 29, Nathan Friend 29, Luke Douglas 28, Leivaha Pulu 26.
TOP METRE MAKERS: Nene Macdonald 236, Josh Hoffman 182, Konrad Hurrell 174, Zeb Taia 164, David Mead 164, Greg Bird 146, Anthony Don 127, Ryan James 119.
HIT-UPS/RUNS: Zeb Taia 18, David Mead 16, Josh Hoffman 16, Konrad Hurrell 15, Nene Macdonald 15, Greg Bird 14.
TOP MINUTES (forwards): Taia 80, McQueen 80, Peats 66, Bird 64, James 47, Pulu 36, Douglas 35, Paasi 27, Pettybourne 32, Friend 30.
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