Gold Coast’s early-season resurrection continued at Cbus Super Stadium on Easter Sunday, with the Titans posting a crushing 38-14 win over Newcastle.
Five-eighth Tyrone Roberts was a two-try hero and Michael Gordon scored a try and booted seven goals from eight attempts in the Titans’ biggest ever win over Newcastle, eclipsing the 18-point margin set in Round 1 of 2016, when the Gold Coast won 30-12.
Gordon also became just the second Titan to score 18 points in a match, joining Scott Prince who holds the individual club record with 20.
While the scoreline would certainly warm the hearts of Titans fans, it should not take away from the fact that this was a tough win for the Gold Coast, born out of remarkable resilience as their horror injury toll continued to climb.
Already missing State of Origin prop Jarrod Wallace through suspension, and key players AJ Brimson and Nathan Peats through injury, the Titans lost Keegan Hipgrave and Kevin Proctor before the match, and then skipper Ryan James with a knee injury just 12 minutes into the match.
James went down in agony clutching his knee, and will have scans today to discover the extent of the injury.
The captain’s injury took a little of the gloss from a comprehensive win from the Titans, who have now posted back-to-back wins – and highly impressive wins at that – to reboot their season and make the winless opening four weeks seems like a bad memory.
The Titans led 28-0 at one stage, as Newcastle errors made the going easy for the home team.
But a drop in intensity in the last quarter from the Titans allowed the Knights to pick themselves off the canvas and get back into the game.
The loss of Hipgrave (back) and Proctor (quad/hip) forced coach Garth Brennan to shuffle his squad, with Moeaki Fotuaika promoted to starting prop, Jack Stockwell coming onto the bench, and James moving sliding across to backrow.
But when James went down clutching at his knee, Bryce Cartwright moved from left backrow to the right side, Tyrone Peachey went from centre to the backrow, Dale Copley from left wing to right centre, and Phillip Sami replaced him on the flank.
Mid-way through the half, the team shuffled again when Anthony Don left the field for a Head Injury Assessment, pushing Copley back to the wing, and Peachey to left centre.
Confused? You have good reason to be.
But if the disruption bothered the Titans, they did well to hide it, with Sami grabbing the first try in the 19th minute after Newcastle coughed the ball up on halfway.
Mitch Rein picked up the scraps, flung it wide to Brian Kelly, who set Sami off on a 60m run to push the Titans out to an 8-0 lead.
Gold Coast’s second try, just four minutes later, was almost a carbon copy.
A Knights knock-on was pinged to the left edge, where Roberts was able to dummy his way through from 40m out to cross untouched.
Two minutes from halftime, the Titans were in again, this time through Kelly who strolled through some weak attempts at defence from Newcastle to score under the posts.
Gordon’s fifth shot at goal could not have been easier and, just like the preceding four, he banged it over the black dot, giving the Titans a 22-0 lead and a rousing reception from the fans as they headed for the sheds.
A complete rout looked in the offing for the Titans when Don crossed – after another Knights error and a lovely over-the-shoulder pass from Copley – but the Gold Coast took their foot off Newcastle’s throats.
The Knights’ tenacity, and some individual brilliance from Kalyn Ponga, saw the visitors pile on three tries in 10 minutes to salvage their pride and erode Gold Coast’s monster lead, before Roberts crossed again to seal it three minutes from full-time.
TITANS 38 (Tyrone Roberts 2, Phillip Sami, Brian Kelly, Anthony Don, Michael Gordon tries; Michael Gordon 7 goals) d KNIGHTS 14 (Hymel Hunt, Mitchel Barnett, Kalyn Ponga tries; Barnett goal) at Cbus Super Stadium. Crowd: 11,654