The Titans are back on track, but still have a long road ahead of them before they count themselves as one of the top teams in the NRL after going down 38-18 to the Melbourne Storm at Cbus Super Stadium.
After a traumatic season and a week of turmoil, the Titans were looking to make a statement against the Storm to show what they are made of.
And the message clearly is that the Gold Coast are on the way up, after an enthusiastic and willing performance that was a thousand miles in front of last week’s limp loss to Penrith.
The Titans were in this game up to their eyeballs at halftime, with the Storm hanging on to a slender 18-16 lead, but the understrength Storm found another gear or three in the second half to power away with the win.
After being rocked by a week of drama and a host of team changes, that included the club debut of Titan No.148 Sam Stone, the Titans tried their best but had few answers as the Storm powered away in the second half in a display of muscle from a Melbourne team that had a host of Origin stars being rested.
Even the most optimistic of Titans fans would not have expected the start to the game, as the home team exploded out of the block to lead the premiership favourites 12-0 after just seven minutes.
Storm skipper Cameron Smith celebrated his 400th NRL game the week before, and he arrived at Cbus Super Stadium with a gift for the Gold Coast – a rare poor pass from Smith finding the ground five metres into Titans territory, before finding the willing arms of Brenko Lee.
With his first touch of the ball in the NRL since Round 2, Lee scooped up the ball, tore through some defensive traffic and planted the ball under the posts to have the Titans away after just 90 seconds of play.
Five minutes later, Nathan Peats looked to have scored for the Titans when he burrowed over from dummy-half, only to be denied by the video referee.
But Peats received some compensation for the near miss just a minute later, when he delivered a crisp short ball to prop Jarrod Wallace, who cleverly used the goalpost padding as a shepherd against the Storm defenders and crashed over.
Skipper Tyrone Roberts converted both tries, putting the Titans two tries clear after just seven minutes of play.
On the weekend of the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon, Titans fans could have been forgiven for shooting for the stars as the Gold Coast looked ruthless with the ball in their hands.
But, the Storm being the Storm, they were never going to sit back and accept a lesson from the Titans, and some typical Melbourne efficiency saw them eclipse Gold Coast’s lead with tries to Suliasi Vunivalu, Joe Stimson and Sandor Earl to have a 16-12 lead by the 23rd minute.
The warning bells were clanging for the Titans, who have made a nasty habit of surrendering match-winning leads this season, when some fundamental errors started creeping into the game and allowing Melbourne to take a grip on the match.
To the Titans credit though, they surged again, with a neat grubber into the in-goal from Roberts sitting up like a startled taipan, allowing Bryce Cartwright to snatch the ball from the waiting hands of Ryan Papenhuyzen to score, and give the Titans an 18-16 lead seven minutes before the break.
While it would have been a fitting reward for the Titans after an impressive half of football to carry that lead to halftime, Vunivalu grabbed his second in the right corner three minutes from oranges to keep Melbourne 22-18 clear.
The Titans were best served by forwards Wallace, Moeaki Fotuaika, and Jai Whitbread, while AJ Brimson, Brian Kelly and Michael Gordon – playing his first game back after a blood clot in his leg – all looked sharp.
STORM 38 (Suliasi Vunivalu 2, Joe Stimson, Sandor Earl, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Cameron Smith, Justin Olam tries; Smith 5 goals) d TITANS 18 (Brenko Lee, Jarrod Wallace, Bryce Cartwright tries; Tyrone Roberts 3 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium. Crowd: 11,143.