The Gold Coast Titans were unable to go 3-0 in their 300th NRL game, missing the chance of a third successive win in a disappointing 30-16 loss to the Wests Tigers in Tamworth.
The Titans led 14-0 after just 19 minutes and had the game at their mercy, but were not able to contain a Tigers team desperate for redemption after being humiliated by Parramatta the previous weekend.
It was a disappointing result for the Titans, who had worked so hard and played so well to get their season back on track with wins over Penrith and Newcastle at Cbus Super Stadium.
But with a third-straight win on offer in the club’s 300th NRL game, the Titans unfortunately unravelled by falling back into bad habits as the lack of discipline that marred the first four rounds reared its ugly head again to let the Tigers off the hook.
The Titans looked good in patches, even when the game started to get away from them, but continually made life difficult for themselves with poor options and unnecessary penalties that gave the Tigers all the momentum they needed to wrestle control of the game away from Gold Coast.
The Tigers match marked an historic moment in the Gold Coast’s history, being the club’s 300thNRL match since the Titans debuted in the NRL in 2007.
Milestone matches have not always been kind to the Titans.
They lost the first game in the club’s history, against the Dragons, as well as their 100th match in the 2010 preliminary final against the Roosters in 2010. Coincidentally, both of those games were played at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
But the Titans’ 200th match was against Cronulla at Shark Park in 2015, and the Gold Coast won that game 24-22.
With this game again being in NSW, in country Tamworth, the omens at least looked good.
But it was not to be, the Gold Coast sadly handing Tyrone Roberts a losing start to his reign at Titans captain after the loss of Ryan James for the season with a knee injury.
It was not a case of everything being doom and gloom, however, with a number of very strong individual performances – including good displays from props Shannon Boyd and Moeaki Fotuaika – keeping the Titans in the hunt right up until the dying moments.
But even with a flood of possession in the final 15 minutes as the penalty count squared up, the Titans could not find the spark to ignite a fightback.
The game could not have started much better for the Titans, with Tigers five-eighth Josh Reynolds dropping the kick-off to put the Gold Coast on the attack from word go.
It looked like they had capitalised after just two minutes, with Dale Copley claiming a try in the corner. But the video referee found the Titans winger had tickled the sideline on his way to the corner post and the Gold Coast were turned away empty-handed.
Still, Titans fans did not have to wait long for a celebration, with errors from the Tigers and quality play from the Gold Coast seeing the Titans crack open a 14-0 lead after the first quarter of the match.
Anthony Don (12th minutes) and Tyrone Peachey (16th minute) both grabbed tries off the back of excellent lead-up work from skipper Roberts and Bryce Cartwright, and the Titans were on their way.
When Michael Gordon knocked over a penalty goal from close range in the 19th minute, it looked like the Titans had carried on from where they left off the previous week against Newcastle, and a similar halftime lead to the 22-0 buffer they enjoyed against the Knights looked in the offing.
But as the second quarter of the game started, lady luck began to woo the Tigers, and a string of penalties against the Titans allowed the courtship to blossom into points.
The Titans struggled to get any possession or field position and as fatigue set in, the Gold Coast had to watch the Tigers roar past them to a 16-14 halftime lead on the back of three tries in 12 minutes.
Tigers winger Mahe Fonua finished with three tries and centre Robert Jennings grabbed a double, to set up a long trip home for the Titans before facing up to next weekend’s journey to Townsville to take on the Cowboys.
WESTS TIGERS 30 (Mahe Fonua 3, Robert Jennings 2, Esan Marsters tries; Marsters 3 goals) d TITANS 14 (Anthony Don, Tyrone Peachey tries; Michael Gordon 3 goals) at Scully Park, Tamworth. Crowd: 9799.