A drop in intent and intensity in the second half by the Titans allowed the Storm to escape with a 24-8 win at AAMI Stadium, but the Gold Coast left Melbourne with plenty of positives if not the two points.
While doomsayers were predicting a thrashing for the Titans against the competition leaders and premiership favourites, the Gold Coast instead showed their mettle, going toe-to-toe with the Storm in a promising display that netted the visitors an 8-6 lead at halftime.
Some simple errors and a lack of respect for the ball at the start of the second half from the Titans gave the Storm all the opportunity they needed to wrestle control of the game, and Melbourne posted three unanswered tries in the second half.
The Titans were far from disgraced, particularly when critics were predicting a bloodbath given the Gold Coast’s unhappy season and the fact Melbourne were on a revenge mission after their loss to the Raiders last weekend.
But the Titans stood tall in one of their toughest assignments of the year, showing terrific character and commitment to take it to the Storm.
That commitment was summed up perfectly by Phillip Sami in 78th minute of the game when the Titans winger hauled in a try-bound Josh Addo-Carr – one of the fastest players in the game – to stop a try and force an error from his opponent.
It was brilliant from Sami, with the result of the game already decided, and sign that these Titans have the heart and pride needed to rebuild their fortunes in 2020.
The Titans led 8-6 at halftime after producing their best 40 minutes of football since the Gold Coast’s win over Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium in Round 13.
After a month where their high-quality efforts on the training field had not translated into match-day performances, the Titans looked polished, committed and composed in the first half, frustrating the Storm into errors and penalties.
There was new-found desperation in the Titans play, with Gold Coast players across the park finding the commitment needed to throw themselves onto loose balls, turn up in defence and support their teammates in attack.
There was also better discipline too, with the Titans completing 83 per cent of their first-half sets – so crucial for any team looking to keep pace with the Storm.
Most importantly though, the Titans looked like they had turned up to play and compete for everything – not content to sit back and watch as they had done in recent showings against the likes of Brisbane and the Roosters.
The Titans came ready to get into the grind, and they did it magnificently, rattling the competition leaders with their desire in the first 40 minutes.
Michael Gordon kicked the Titans out to an early 2-0 lead with a penalty goal in the 13th minute, but it was the try to Jesse Arthars three minutes later that really made the NRL sit up and take notice.
After some enterprising attacking play, Brian Kelly managed a great off-load in a tackle on the left edge, finding lock Nathan Peats.
Peats launched a perfectly-placed bomb across the field and into the in-goal area, where Arthars was able to swoop through and steal the ball from Josh Addo-Carr to plant the ball down for a terrific try.
Gordon’s boot was on-song again, and the Titans lead 8-0.
The Storm did peg a try back through Kenny Bromwich, which reduced the Gold Coast’s lead to two points, and there were still areas of concern for the Titans to work on in regards to their option taking and ball security.
And seeing star prop Jai Arrow leave the field with a sternum injury in the 25th minute, and Jesse Arthars with concussion just before halftime, was no cause for joy.
But for Titans fans desperate for a sign of better days to come, a halftime lead against the best team in the competition on their home turf was a pretty satisfying start to the game.
STORM 24 (Kenny Bromwich, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Dale Finucane, Josh Addo-Carr tries; Cameron Smith 4 goals) d TITANS 8 (Jesse Arthars try; Michael Gordon 2 goals) at AAMI Park, Melbourne.