A sparkling return from attacking dynamo AJ Brimson was not enough to save a luckless Gold Coast in Townsville, as the Titans went south up north in a 28-14 loss to the Cowboys in Townsville.
While any loss is hard to swallow for Titans fans, especially one that now leaves the Titans with a 2-6 win-loss record after eight rounds, there was a lot to like about the Gold Coast’s performance in what was a tough assignment against the rebounding Cowboys.
The Titans’ attack looked brilliant in patches, particularly with Brimson’s electricity at fullback complementing Ash Taylor’s best performance of the season that showed the halfback may have regained his attacking mojo.
There was also plenty of courage, with the Titans running low on numbers late in the game after losing both Michael Gordon and captain Tyron Roberts to concussion.
And when Anthony Don scored his try in the 59th minute – giving him another club record by scoring in six consecutive games – the Titans were within striking distance of grabbing an upset, trailing by two at 16-14.
But the Cowboys were good enough to kick clear again, with two late tries blowing out the score, keeping the Gold Coast at arm’s length and keeping the Queensland derby crown in their grasp.
While the Titans were unlucky in many aspects, they undoubtedly made the job harder for themselves with a lack of respect for the ball and the referee’s whistle.
Mitch Rein and Jai Arrow were enormous in the middle for the Titans again, backing up the attacking brilliance of Taylor and Brimson, while Kevin Proctor – who grabbed a try just after halftime – was a constant menace on the right edge.
If Cowboys hooker Jake Granville likes to holiday on the Gold Coast during the off-season, he should be banned from going any further south that Beenleigh after being at the centre of a string of Titans heartaches during the first half.
Like last week against the Tigers, the game started promisingly for the Titans, with returning Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo spilling his first touch of the ball 30 seconds after kick-off to put the Gold Coast straight on the attack.
But a promising attack raid came to nothing when fullback Gordon was asleep to an inside flick pass from Bryce Cartwright.
Minutes later, Gordon was asleep again – but this time it was due to a bout of concussion after a nasty knock from the hip of Michael Morgan in a collision that unfortunately ended his night.
It was from here that Granville began making his mark, with the hooker riding on the back of a wave of North Queensland possession and field position to score the first try of the game in the 10th minute, pushing the Cowboys out to 6-0 lead.
But Granville’s impact on the scoreboard had only just started. Remarkably, he was directly involved in two brilliantly constructed tries for the Titans being denied on video evidence.
The first was in the 13th minute, when Ash Taylor latched onto a smart grubber inside from a flying Anthony Don after great lead-up work from Brian Kelly. The video referee ruled Taylor knocked the ball on into Granville as he headed for the tryline.
The second was even more heartbreaking, with some brilliant individual work from Brimson – on at fullback to replace Gordon – seeing the Titans roar down field with Tyrone Peachey finishing off a wonderful 100m movement in the 25th minute.
But again Granville was the fly in the ointment, milking a penalty out of the video referee who ruled his chase of Peachey had been impeded by a shove from Phillip Sami, even though replays suggested it was Granville who had initiated contact.
In between time, Granville also threw the last pass for a try to Taumalolo.
But neither the Cowboys hooker nor the video referee could deny Brimson in the 16th minute, with the livewire fullback crashing over in the corner to finish off some enterprising play on the left edge.
The try got the Titans underway and in the hunt – even though a couple of Cowboys penalty goals saw their halftime lead sneak out to 16-4.
COWBOYS 28 (Jake Granville, Jason Taumalolo, John Asiata, Justin O’Neill tries; Jordan Kahu 6 goals) d TITANS 14 (AJ Brimson, Kevin Proctor, Anthony Don tries; Ash Taylor goal) at 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville.