The best Titans performance in months was not enough to give the Gold Coast one last win for the season, with their wretched 2019 campaign finally euthanised by a 24-16 win to the Dragons at Cbus Super Stadium.
The Titans were unable to conjure a winning farewell for the retiring Michael Gordon, with the champion fullback and rugby league gentlemen left to lament another “what might have been” in his 261st NRL game.
Gordon was cheered on in the stands again by a large contingent from his junior club the Tweed Coast Raiders, with whom he will make a one-season encore performance in 2020.
A special presentation was made to “Flash” Gordon and other departing Titans at the end of the game, with fans spilling onto the playing field to celebrate the 35-year-old’s career and contribution to the Titans.
Gordon did everything humanly possible to lift the Titans across the line, pulling off two heroic try-saving tackles in one set of six in the 52nd minute to keep the Dragons at bay.
The Titans responded to the veteran’s courage, seconds later scorching 90 metres up field to score through Mitch Ren and put the Gold Coast within striking distance at 12-10 in arrears.
But two late tries to Dragons halfback Ben Hunt sealed the Titans fate and condemned the home team to an 11th straight defeat.
Phil Sami pegged one back with a well-constructed try in the corner with just five minutes left, but the clock was always going to be too skinny for the Titans to regain the lead.
It was a disappointing end to a disappointing season, not just because Gordon was denied a farewell win, but because the Titans looked focused, committed and determined to end the year with a win.
The Titans wore their heritage jersey against the Dragons – the team they played in the Gold Coast’s first premiership game in 2007 – and they conjured the fighting spirit of the club’s pioneers with an impressive start to the game.
The Gold Coast looked more organised and better structured in attack, and resolute and desperate in defence in what was some of their best football of the season in the first half.
The early loss of Nathan Peats with a dislocated finger did not upset the Titans’ rhythm, with Bryce Cartwright bringing a bagful of energy in defence and attack to the middle of the field.
The Titans looked creative and expansive, pushing up in numbers in attack, looking for off-loads and supporting each other across the field.
It paid handsome dividends after just 14 minutes when Jarrod Wallace popped a nice off-load 10 metres out from the Dragons line.
It landed in the lap of Jai Arrow, who looked momentarily stunned that he had the ball in his grasp.
But one he switched on and put the gearbox in drive, there was no stopping him, with Arrow blasting through five defenders to score under the posts.
Defensively, the Titans also looked like a new team. Rein was in everything as always, and came up with two special plays in the space of five minutes mid-way through the half to keep the Gold Coast’s line intact.
Once he buried himself under Dragons prop Paul Vaughan to hold him up and deny a try, and the second was when he forced an error out of the Dragons’ other prop, James Graham, as the visitors were camped in Gold Coast territory and mounting pressure.
The Titans looked ready to keep a clean sheet, but Dragons winger scored a long-range try through broken play to level the scores at the break.
But the Dragons just seemed to want it more in the second half, finding a way despite desperate defence and lady luck keeping the Gold Coast in the hunt for most of the game.
DRAGONS 24 (Ben Hunt 2, Jonus Pearson, Corey Norman tries; Gareth Widdop 4 goals) d TITANS 16 (Jai Arrow, Mitch Rein, Phil Sami tries; Michael Gordon 2 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium. Crowd: 11,274