SEMI-FINAL: The Gold Coast’s golden run through the NRL Nines has come to an end with a 19-10 semi-final loss to the Jason Taumalolo-inspired Cowboys in Perth.
The Titans were once again brave, but three pieces of individual brilliance from the Cowboys – two examples of blinding speed from Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Scott Drinkwater, and sheer physical brutality from Taumalolo – sank the Gold Coast’s hopes of making their first major final.
While the result was disappointing, the Titans and coach Justin Holbrook will leave Perth well pleased from the trip west for the Nines, with the Gold Coast playing some excellent football in their three wins and one loss over the weekend.
The impressive form of big guns like Ash Taylor, Bryce Cartwright and Tyrone Peachey, and the rising starts like Jai Whitbread, Greg Leleisiuao, Erin Clark and Jonus Pearson, will have Titans fans feeling buoyant about where the Club is heading going into the season proper.
The Cowboys led 7-0 when Kyle Feldt used his speed to capitalise on a smart grubber kick to tear through to the bonus zone untouched in the third minute after a physical opening to the game.
The Titans worked hard to hit back, but twice were denied tries as Bryce Cartwright’s final pass to Pearson was called forward, and then Cartwright himself was held up over the line.
Eventually Leleisiuao broke through to score, after a good long ball from AJ Brimson, reducing the halftime deficit to 7-4.
The Titans did well defensively in the second half to keep the Cowboys pinned in their own territory.
But the distance was no problem as the Cowboys’ speedsters went long-range to kick North Queensland clear again.
The Titans pulled one back in the final seconds, with Whitbread bagging a try as a reward for an excellent tournament, delivered on a platter with another quality ball from Cartwright.
The Gold Coast fell one game short of the final, but the tournament was a successful debut for Holbrook as coach of the Titans, with the team looking smarter, more structured, more disciplined ad more skilful than last year.
The argument will always be “yes, but its only Nines”.
But for Titans fans, after being caught in a desperately dark tunnel in 2019, it was exciting to see the light of their team playing to their potential.
COWBOYS 19 (Kyle Feldt, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Shane Wright, Scott Drinkwater tries; Feldt goal) d TITANS 10 (Greg Leleisiuao, Jai Whitbread tries; Tyrone Peachey goal).