The Titans were given a harsh reminder of the mountain they have ahead of them this season after being bulldozed in the first half by the Raiders in Gold Coast’s 24-6 loss in the season-opener in Canberra.
The Titans trailed 18-0 at the break, but a shift to the middle for Tyrone Peachey and some more direct running from the Gold Coast quickly had the visitors back in the game in the second half.
With Phil Sami on the prowl in the middle of the park, and Peachey showing his class, the Titans came out looking like a new team, and some clever play with the ball in hand saw Anthony Don cross just five minutes after the break to give Titans fans hope.
Ash Taylor drilled the conversion, reducing the deficit to 18-6 and giving the Titans a much-needed injection of confidence as they started to work their way into the contest.
The Titans were far more impressive in the second half, and at one stage looked like they would grind their way back into the contest.
But simple errors and penalties continually released the pressure on the Raiders, and last year’s grand finalists did not need too many invitations to take advantage.
Despite making life hard for themselves, the Titans were able to hang tough and stay in the contest, but a try to Raiders second-rower Elliott Whitehead in the 66th minute was a dagger through the heart of the Gold Coast’s hopes of starting the season with a win.
On a positive note, Peachey and Sami were terrific for the Titans, especially in the second half, as was centre Kallum Watkins, who is definitely showing signs of getting back to the form that made him one of England’s top Test stars.
Brian Kelly was another one to show good form in the second half until he was replaced for a head injury assessment with eight minutes to play.
Across the park, the effort in the second half was much more encouraging and, if you take away the 18-0 start they gave them at halftime, the Titans held the second term to a 6-all draw.
But the miracle comeback against the Broncos in the Redcliffe trial never eventuated, with the Titans just giving away too much ground at the beginning of the game.
The start could not have been much worse for the Titans, with Jarrod Wallace coughing up possession on just the second ruck of the game.
This gifted the Raiders field position, which they duly converted into points when Jack Wighton sliced through in the third minute to give Canberra a 6-0 lead.
Ten minutes later, Wighton had doubled his try tally and the Raiders doubled their score, with Canberra handed a glut of possession and position by a poor call against Bryce Cartwright, who was penalised for a “late tackle” on Wighton as he kicked the ball further upfield.
Michael Ennis, commentating on Fox League, described the penalty against Cartwright as “dubious” – and he is on the Raiders’ coaching staff. It is a fair guess the adjectives used by Titans fans would have been considerably stronger.
Regardless, the scoreboard remained the same, and the Raiders – playing a practically faultless first 40 minutes of football – managed to dig the knife in again before halftime to take an 18-0 lead into the break.
The Titans had one good chance of a scoring opportunity to close out the half, with Peachey getting close 30 seconds before the bell. But he was jostled off the ball and came up empty handed.
RAIDERS 24 (Jack Wighton 2, Emre Guler, Elliott Whitehead tries; Jarrod Croker 4 goals) d TITANS 6 (Anthony Don tries; Ash Taylor goals) at GIO Stadium, Canberra.