GAME 1: The Justin Holbrook era got off to a winning start for the Gold Coast at the NRL Nines in Perth, with the Titans handing out an impressive 27-10 belting to the Canberra Raiders at HBF Park.
The Titans had a rusty start to the Nines, with the Raiders allowed to stroll up-field to score in the first set and first minute of the game.
And some alarm bells were ringing when the Titans backed that up with some sloppy play and structure immediately after, but a nice bonus try to Greg Leleisiuao two minutes later seemed to settle the Titans and sharpen their focus.
Leleisiuao went in after some lovely lead-in work from Tyrone Peachey close to the line, fading to the right before delivering – fittingly – a peach of a pass, cutting out two defenders, to hit Leleisiuao on the chest and deliver the Titans 7-6 lead.
Leleisiuao is one of the new parade of Titans in 2020, and it was the Club’s old stager – returning veteran Michael Gordon – who next got the scoreboard ticking over, delivered to the right corner by a lovely Bryce Cartwright pass.
Holbrook elected to go into the first game of the tournament without Ash Taylor and AJ Brimson, with the Titans coach resting his two prime attacking weapons against the Raiders, putting most of the responsibility for the attack on the young shoulder of Tanah Boyd.
The youngster looked comfortable with the task, playing a leading hand in the final try of the first half as the Titans bagged a cracker after the siren.
Wily veteran Anthony Don took the Raiders’ restart out on the full, giving the Gold Coast a tap on halfway.
After some good ad-lib and a splash of razzle dazzle, it was great vision from Phillip Sami and Boyd that produced the goods – a deft kick from the halfback finding Don on the right, and the Grafton Ghosts junior was able to finish the play he started by crossing in the corner.
Boyd drilled the drop-kick conversion from the sideline – a skill that won’t be forgotten when tight matches are on the line during the season proper – and the Titans led 17-10 at the break.
The Titans owned the second term and Jonus Pearson, in his first game in a Titans jersey, bagged two tries after finishing off good lead-up work from Gordon, Sami and Jai Whitbread.
While it is only Nines and the Raiders were under-strength, there was still plenty to like about the Titans’ performance.
While they lost their way playing off-the-cuff footy at times, when they stuck to their structure, they looked poised and polished.
Whitbread was a shining light, Nines skipper Mitch Rein was his usual industrious self, and new boy Erin Clark looked particularly good in defence.
TITANS 27 (J Pearson 2, G Leleisiuao (bonus), M Gordon, A Don, tries; T Boyd 3 goals) d RAIDERS (M Timoko 2 tries; M Frawley goals)