There are signs that the real Gold Coast Titans are finally starting to emerge despite falling to another loss, this time a 40-28 defeat at the hands of St George Illawarra in Sydney.
While Titans fans will be disappointed the Gold Coast were not able to crack a drought-breaking win against the equally struggling Dragons, the fighting spirit and attacking brilliance that have been sorely lacking for big chunks of this season came out of the cupboard to give hope something can be salvaged from the back-end of this season.
Twice the Dragons pushed out to a 12-point lead, and at one stage the home team led by 20, only for the Gold Coast to show some true resilience to fight their way back into the contest.
And they did it on the back of some genuine quality in attack, scoring some of their best tries of the season.
One to Phillip Sami in the 50th minute that went through nine sets of Titans hands, and another to Ryley Jacks in the 64th minute that saw Gold Coast roll 90 metres upfield to score, just one minute and in the first set of six after Sami had grabbed his second.
Ultimately again the Gold Coast were not good enough defensively to get the job done, letting the Dragons get away with some soft tries through lack of defensive polish and fundamental errors.
The Titans looked much better in attack, but the priority needs to be stemming the amount of points scored against them, with the Dragons allowed to kick clear late to condemn the Gold Coast to another 40-plus scoreline against them.
The Titans trailed 18-12 at halftime after a first 40 minutes that offered a mixed bag for the Gold Coast, with some flashes of brilliance delivering two tries to keep the visitors in the hunt when it looked like errors and lethargy would allow the Dragons to build a solid lead.
The Titans struggled for penetration in the middle of the field, again relying on moving the ball sideways too early and to often to make any in-roads into the Dragons’ defence.
The Gold Coast also failed to make the most of a howling breeze at their backs in the first half, not being able to adapt their kicking game to exploit the blustery conditions or ride on its back for some cheap territory.
The first of those failed kicks was in the fourth minute when a Tyrone Peachey bomb went out on the full, handing the Dragons field position and opportunity, which they duly converted into a 6-0 lead one minute later when Paul Vaughan scored what was a soft try.
When the Titans played more direct, they looked threatening, and it paid dividends in the 16th minute when Brian Kelly scored the Gold Coast’s first try.
The Titans were gifted the opportunity through a Dragons mistake, which was then compounded by an error.
The Titans looked to the left edge, and after some clever lead-up work from Sam Stone and Ryley Jacks, AJ Brimson delivered a nice pass for Kelly to barge his way over, and Peachey’s conversion levelled the scores.
The Dragons crossed again in the 20th and 25th minutes, blowing the lead out to 18-6 and the warning lights were flashing for the gun-shy Titans, particularly when Kelly was placed on report for a lifting tackle in the 31st minute.
But instead of going into their shells, the Titans instead produced their try of the year to lift themselves off the canvas.
A sweetly timed pass from Phillip Sami on his own 20-metre line sent Brimson on a brilliant run downfield, with the fullback linking with Kelly who kept the momentum moving before bulldozing his way over Corey Norman.
On the attack and 30m from the line, the Titans worked right through Jacks and then Peachey, who went into the Dragons defensive line before delivering a sweet off-load into the lap of skipper Kevin Proctor to score.
It moved the Titans back within range at 18-12 down in the shadows of halftime, but more importantly was an important show of intent, and the potential in the Titans team when they have their minds on the job.
DRAGONS 40 (Tariq Sims 2, Paul Vaughan, Tyson Frizelle, Ben Hunt, Euan Aitken, Jason Saab tries; Gareth Widdop 6 goals) d TITANS 28 (Phillip Sami 2, Brian Kelly, Kevin Proctor, Ryley Jacks tries; Tyrone Peachey 4 goals) at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney.