We’re not done yet. That was the emphatic message from the Gold Coast Titans, who overcame another week of turmoil to upset the high-flying Manly Sea Eagles with a character-building 36-18 win at Lottoland in Sydney.
The Titans were listless for the first 30 minutes of the game, but roared home with a wet sail, producing the determined and confident football Gold Coast fans had been waiting for to bury the top-five Sea Eagles on their home turf.
The much-needed win was so important for the Titans. It snapped a four-game losing streak, gave them their first away win since August last year, and lifted them off the bottom of the ladder.
It also sent a message to the rest of the NRL that the Titans are not ready to lay down and concede this season is over.
While clawing their way into the top eight will be a challenge, on the strength of the performance against Manly – who are enjoying an impressive season and sitting fifth on the ladder – there is no reason to think the Gold Coast cannot make a charge.
It came after a dramatic week when the club announced a review into its football operations to arrest a slump in form. If a performance like that was the product of the review being announced, it has already been a worthwhile exercise.
Winger Dale Copley grabbed a hat-trick of tries, giving him five in two weeks after his double against the Bulldogs, while Tyrone Roberts – playing a brilliant captain’s knock – grabbed a double with a wonderful display of attacking football.
Perhaps the Titans’ renaissance was best encapsulated by Copley’s third try in the 61stminute, when he stuck out his left hand and reeled in a magical 25-metre pass from Ash Taylor, then tip-toed inside the touchline to score in the corner and push the Titans out to a 26-12 lead.
It was a show of strength from the Titans that they were back in business after a disjointed started to the season.
Equally it was a message from Taylor that he still has what it takes to be ones of the game’s top playmakers.
After being the target of a barrage of criticism in the past week for not living up to his reputation or price tag, Taylor showed the vision, skill and execution of a man at the peak of his powers to lay on that try for Copley, and give himself a massive injection of confidence in the process.
Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done for Taylor and the Titans as a whole. But the performance of both in a stunning win at one of the NRL’s toughest venues is a great platform for the Gold Coast and their halfback to build on for the rest of the season.
AJ Brimson and Bryce Cartwright were the other try-scorers for the Titans. Despite it being their third win of the season, it was easily their most comprehensive and impressive victory so far in 2019.
The last time the Titans played at Lottoland, the Sea Eagles jumped out to a massive 22-6 lead, but a try to Brimson just before halftime inspired the Titans to a remarkable 42-34 win.
So Titans fans would have spent the halftime break with fingers crossed that history was set to repeat itself when a try to Brimson dragged the Titans kicking and screaming back into the contest at just 12-10 down at the end of the first 40 minutes.
For the first 30 minutes of the game, it looked like being a long night for the Gold Coast as Manly controlled the game with more creativity in attack and greater respect for the ball.
The Titans had their chances in the attacking zone, but came up empty handed with pushed passes and panic options looking for miracles plays inevitably resulted in errors.
Anthony Don was denied two tries between the 12th and 14th minute of the game – the first from a referee’s obstruction call, and the second when an Ash Taylor kick to the in-goal just escaped his clutches.
Manly on the other hand were happy to wait for their chances – scoring two tries on the back of free possession from Titans errors.
But unlike recent weeks when the Titans were the ones to let good leads slip, it was the Gold Coast who staged a late fightback, banging over back-to-back tries in the 35th and 39th minute through Copley and Brimson to be within striking distance at the break.
Copley’s try came on the back of a strong run from Brian Kelly after a neat short ball from Cartwright, while Brimson did well to get a hand to a deft kick into the in-goal from Roberts to get the Titans back into the game with a dose of confidence and momentum before the break.
TITANS 36 (Dale Copley 3, Tyrone Roberts 2, AJ Brimson, Bryce Cartwright tries; Ash Taylor 4 goals) d SEA EAGLES 18 (Jorge Taufua, Reuben Garrick, Brad Parker tries; Garrick 3 goals) at Lottoland, Sydney.