The Titans fell agonisingly short of breaking through for their first win of the season at ANZ Stadium, with a brave Gold Coast coming within a whisker of stealing an unlikely win against the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
South Sydney ultimately prevailed 28-20, keeping the Titans winless at the bottom of the NRL ladder, but Gold Coast fans will take heart from another improved showing from the under-manned Titans.
Anthony Don became the greatest try-scorer in Titans history, with his 68th try in 112 games putting the Gold Coast within striking distance of the Rabbitohs with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Don scored after a freakish passage of play, with an AJ Brimson bomb batted back by Ryan James, and brilliantly handled by Brian Kelly, who unfortunately flung the ball back inside to the waiting arms of Rabbitoh Ethan Lowe.
But Don was not done, reefing the ball free in a one-on-one tackle to score a crucial try, which Michael Gordon converted to have the Titans only trailing by four at 24-20.
Unfortunately, it was not enough for the Gold Coast, and Souths were allowed to escape with the two points.
The cavalry cannot return quickly enough for the Titans.
Losing Nathan Peats to a long-term pectoral injury on Thursday was another cruel blow for a Titans team already struggling to find its confidence with first-choice halves Ash Taylor and Tyrone Roberts sidelined.
Three of Gold Coast’s four first-choice spine players are now missing with injury.
Still, there were signs of enterprise from the Titans against Souths – with Ballina junior Kelly bagging two tries.
Like last weekend against Cronulla, the Titans were much better in the second half.
But again, the Gold Coast did themselves no favours, with errors and a lack of discipline costing them dearly on occasions.
In the first set of the game, a poor effort in defence allowed South Sydney’s Cameron Murray to split the Titans’ line open and tear up field and put the home team on the attack.
Within the opening two minutes, the Titans had conceded a linebreak, goal-line drop-out, a penalty and two points on the scoreboard.
The Titans kept inviting Souths into the game with errors and cheap penalties.
In the 16th minute and again in the 21st, the Rabbitohs were able to exploit Gold Coast’s compressed defence with long passes.
Wingers Campbell Graham and Corey Allan duly touched down in each corner to give Souths a 12-0 lead.
But slowly, the Titans started working their way into the game, lifting their aggression in attack and defence to get themselves off the canvas.
Heavy contact forced Rabbitohs left centre Braidon Burns from the field, and the Titans were smart enough to exploit the loss, hammering down the right side in attack.
Kelly got the breakthrough, acting like a battering ram one pass of the ruck to force his way over, and get the Titans started, trailing 12-4.
Former Cowboy Lowe scored for Souths in the 32nd minute to push his team clear again at 18-4, but the Titans finally had a bit of luck go their way in the dying seconds of the first half when Copley seized on and intercept and ran away to score.
It was a get out of jail card for the Titans and Copley – who butchered a good scoring chance just a minute before by not reacting to some good lead-up work from Tyrone Peachey.
Still, his intercept made amends, and while Michael Gordon missed his second kick of the night, the Titans at least went to the break with a sniff at 18-8 down.
RABBITOHS 28 (Campbell Graham 2, Corey Allan, Ethan Lowe tries; Reynolds 6 goals) d TITANS 20 (Brian Kelly 2, Ryan James, Anthony Don tries; Michael Gordon 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium, Sydney.