A try-scoring double to Phillip Sami in his comeback game from injury was one of the few bright points for the Titans after they were punished 30-12 by Manly at Cbus Super Stadium.
After good performances against the Broncos and Warriors in their two most recent starts, the Titans saw their momentum evaporate over the representative weekend break, with a listless showing against the Sea Eagles in front of a healthy school-holiday crowd of 11,056.
Sami has been missing for six weeks with a foot injury, but looked right at home after being a late call-up into the starting team following the withdrawal of Dale Copley with a calf injury.
But Sami’s re-emergence, and the heroic early return of Kevin Proctor from a fractured eye socket, were not enough to save the Titans against a Manly team dripping with the class of the Trbojevic brothers and Daly Cherry-Evans.
The visitors led 28-8 before the Titans finally came to life with a piece of opportunistic football in the 56th minute, when skipper Tyrone Roberts latched onto a loose pass on the 30m line and tore up the middle of the field.
Roberts then delivered a wonderful spiral pass into the arms of Sami, who crashed over to score.
Roberts’ conversion made it 28-8, and the Gold Coast’s hopes had the faintest on heartbeats.
That pulse quickened considerably five minutes later when a Manly error and some quick thinking from Bryce Cartwright saw AJ Brimson streak 70m to cross the line.
But the video referee ruled Jarrod Wallace had obstructed Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans as Brimson tore through the middle of the ruck. The try was denied.
Yep, one of those days.
Sami got his double when he and Roberts combined again in the left corner in the 67th minute to reduce the margin to 28-12, but the clock was eroding faster than Manly’s lead, and the Titans were again left short.
The result was disappointing for so many reasons, but particularly given the Titans weren’t short on inspiration for the match.
Aside from the crucial two points on offer, Roberts was playing his 150th NRL game, and the team ran out through an honour-guard of former Gold Coast players who were at the game celebrating Old Boys Day.
Escorting the Titans onto the field were 13 local junior players, chosen by the Gold Coast Old Boys, who were honoured as “heroes” for playing the game in the right spirit.
It was an excellent initiative from the Gold Coast Old Boys to encourage the best elements of playing rugby league, and reinforce the Titans’ club values of Resilience, Accountability, Pride and Trustworthiness.
But while spirits and hopes were high as the team took the field, they were quickly extinguished by 40 minutes of calamity in the first half that saw Manly race out to a 20-2 halftime lead.
The Titans actually led 2-0 after a Roberts penalty goal in the 4th minute, which came on the back of some good play from the Gold Coast that saw them pressuring the Manly line.
But after that, it was one-way traffic as the Sea Eagles took control.
Second-rower Curtis Sironen, like Roberts, was celebrating a milestone match with his 100th game in the NRL. But he was enjoying his day out far more, grabbing two tries in the first 26 minutes through straight and simple crash balls through the Titans’ left edge.
Manly posted another two tries through Reuben Garrick and Jorge Taufua to extend their lead, but the Titans looked set to pull one back just two minutes from the break when the ultra-impressive Brian Kelly sliced through down the left side.
Kelly did well to position the looming AJ Brimson as they approached Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic, but Brimson’s left foot appeared to get stuck in the turf as he went to step around the Sea Eagles No.1.
The try went begging, Sironen – who couldn’t help being involved – was given 10 minutes in the sin bin for tackling Kelly without the ball, and the Titans had 10 minutes in the sheds to contemplate how they would reel in a 20-2 deficit at halftime.
Yep. One of those days.
SEA EAGLES 30 (Curtis Sironen 2, Reuben Garrick, Jorge Taufua, Moses Suli tries; Garrick 5 goals) d TITANS 12 (Phillip Sami 2 tries; Tyrone Roberts 2 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium. Crowd: 11,056