The Titans are back. The Gold Coast showed the guts and deserved all of the glory after breaking an horrendous 14-game losing streak to bury the Wests Tigers 28-23 in the Titans’ first win of the season at their new “home ground” of Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
The Titans were absolutely enormous and courageous, three times dragging themselves off the canvas when it looked like the Tigers would run away with the two points the Gold Coast so desperately craved.
The Titans trailed 12-0 in the first half, but clawed back to 12-all at halftime. They then trailed 22-12 midway through the second half and then 23-22 with just three minutes remaining, but each time found the courage to keep fighting to earn a famous win.
Coach Justin Holbrook made a raft of changes to the team that went down to the Cowboys in Round 3 when the squad was announced on Tuesday, and he followed it up with another overhaul in the countdown to kick-off.
Tyrone Roberts was again a late withdrawal, pulling up sore with his injured ankle after the captain’s run on Saturday, seeing Phil Sami again shift to the back, in turn opening a spot for cult hero Anthony Don to return to the wing.
Tyrone Peachey moved from the centres to the interchange bench, allowing new recruit Young Tonumaipea to become the 155th man to wear the Titans jersey, with the former Melbourne Storm star making his Club debut at centre.
Bryce Cartwright was also promoted to the starting team for his first game post-shutdown, with Keegan Hipgrave moving to a mobile bench alongside Tanah Boyd, Peachey and Jaimin Jolliffe.
Tonumaipea was enormous in his debut, but he was not alone in producing a star turn for the Titans.
Ash Taylor was back to his best in the No.6 jersey, Moeaki Fotuaika was again outstanding in the front row, skipper Kevin Proctor led from the front, and Brian Kelly produced two match-winning plays to cap a sensational game on the wing.
But this really was a team effort – it was genuinely hard to find a poor performer for the Coast – and the Titans deserved to celebrate their first win under thew new Holbrook era.
Despite their courage, the Titans looked dead and buried when Benji Marshall slotted a field goal to give the Tigers a 23-22 lead with just three minutes to play.
However the bounce of the ball, finally and literally, went the Titans’ way.
Going for a short kick-off, the ball failed to travel the required 10 metres, but took a fortuitous bounce to not only clear halfway, but land in the waiting arms of Kelly.
The Titans marched down field knowing they had only one shot at winning the game.
On the last tackle, the ball went to Taylor for an expected shot at field goal. But crowded for room, he played to the left looking for an option.
Dale Copley created some pace for Kelly who was heading inside at pace, and then had the foresight to drive a classy grubber into the in-goal area where an overjoyed Phillip Sami was waiting to pounce and deliver the Gold Coast their first premiership points in 364 days.
Omens were good for the Titans even before the match, with the city of Brisbane showing solidarity for their southern neighbours with one of the city’s landmarks – the famous Story Bridge – light up in the gold and blue of the Gold Coast club.
But while the lights were shining in the Titans’ favour, lady luck was not in the early stages, with the Tigers roaring out to a 12-0 lead after just 13 minutes.
Their second try was particularly heartbreaking, with the Titans on the attack on the halfway line only for Tigers winger to snaffle an intercept pass from Ash Taylor to race 50 metres to score.
But the most positive sign for the Titans was that neither Taylor, nor the team dropped their heads.
Despite the scoreboard and fatigue starting to mount against them, the Titans showed great resolve to reset and get back to work.
Fittingly, it was Taylor who delivered the breakthrough for the Gold Coast, with the five-eighth drilling a 40-20 in the 20th minute to give the Titans n opportunity.
One minute later, the Titans were in, with Kevin Proctor barging over one pass off the ruck – the skipper’s try and Taylor’s conversion getting Gold Coast back in the game.
With a healthy dose of confidence and possession, the Titans again marched downfield and earned some repeat sets to pressure the Tigers.
Taylor again delivered the goods, potting a classy cross-field kick into the arms of the soaring Don who crashed over for an excellent try to have the scores level 12-all in the 27th minute.
Like in the first three rounds, some unnecessary errors from the Titans in the back-end of the half handed their opponents easy possession to mount more assaults on the Gold Coast line. But unlike the first three rounds, the Titans defence was resolute to keep the threat at bay.
Taylor had the chance to put the Titans in front at halftime with a shot at field goal, but the shot strayed wide. It mattered little. It was still the best half of premiership football the Titans had put together this year.
GOLD COAST TITANS 28 (Kevin Proctor, Anthony Don, Keegan Hipgrave, Brian Kelly, Phillip Sami tries; Ashley Taylor 4 goals) d WESTS TIGERS 23 (David Nofoaluma 2, Adam Doueihi, Joseph Lailua tries; Benji Marshall 3 goals; Marshall field goal) at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.