The Gold Coast Titans have thrown everything at the Melbourne Storm on the Sunshine Coast, with a number of new faces stepping in what was a strong performance.
Melbourne held on to take victory 20 points to 14, but there was plenty of positives from the Titans performance.
The Titans gave up possession off the second play of the game and immediately were tested by Melbourne.
Despite multiple attacks on their line, the Gold Coast defence held strong and were able to sustain some good early pressure.
Jahrome Hughes collected Jayden Campbell with a high shot, the Storm halfback throwing an arm out at the young Titans fullback attempted to step through the line. The contact was put on report, but Hughes stayed on the field.
The Titans first attacking chance came after six minutes with a nice short side raid. Erin Clark fired to Ash Taylor who hit Phillip Sami with a cut-out ball. The winger wasn’t able to get his body low to the ground and was dragged into touch by the Melbourne defence.
Campbell dropped his first high ball but bounced back immediately and looked comfortable in his first half on NRL football.
Melbourne worked a nice play off the following scrum, with Hughes creating an extra number as they attacked to the left. Dean Ieremia crossed but the play was called back for a forward pass.
Sam Stone, Jaimin Jolliffe and Sam McIntyre – all starting with the Titans Origin contingent missing – were all strong early.
Ash Taylor’s kicking game was effective through the half and at the 12 minute mark, he was able to force a repeat set. The following set, the Titans probed but couldn’t cross, with Erin Clark following suit and forcing a repeat set with a nice kick into the in-goal.
At the 16 minute mark it was the Titans with the opening points and it was a career moment for Greg Marzhew. The 24-year-old scored on debut, finishing a nice move to the right that saw Patrick Herbert able to get his arms free of a tackle to pop a pass for Marzhew to finish in the corner.
All 13 Titans rushed to Marzhew to celebrate.
The strong start continued, with Jarrod Wallace putting Stone through a gap. The Titans couldn’t capitalise on the field position and it was Melbourne who quickly fired back.
Hughes burst through the line, finding Reimis Smith who raced away to score Melbourne’s first points.
Patrick Herbert pulled of a huge tackle on Kenny Bromwich who stayed down. On review it was deemed a penalty and Herbert was put on report for the shot.
Brandon Smith drew a penalty for a high shot in the next set and in the possession that followed it was the Storm hooker who capitalised, scooting from half close to the line to give the Storm a 12-4 lead.
Three minutes later, Melbourne crossed again with Trent Loiero able to get the better of Brian Kelly in a one-on-one tackle to crash over.
Joe Vuna saw his first football as a Titan after half hour and along with Jai Whitbread who was playing his first game of 2021, impressed with energy and effort.
Melbourne took a 16 points to 4 lead into the break in a half where the stat sheet was close to level.
In the first set after the break, the Titans were rewarded with strong defence as Melbourne tried to force a pass coming out of their own end.
Ash Taylor’s short kicking game was again on show, with the five-eighth rolling through a perfectly weighted kick for Brian Kelly who raced through to score.
The Titans had another chance down the left hand side but couldn't hold on in the greasy conditions.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona was put on report, but the play had moved down-field. The Storm had finished their set, kicked downfield, and forced an error from Campbell on the kick return. It was then that the Asofa-Solomona act was called out, but by then the play had moved on and Melbourne were in prime attacking position.
Melbourne scored through George Jennings, stretching their lead to 20 points to 8. Asofa-Solomona dropped the ball from the kick return, perhaps some karma for the earlier play.
In attack, Jarrod Wallace was given the ball close to the line and the prop powered his way over. Carrying defenders, Wallace was able to reach out and get the ball down to close the margin.
Converted by Fogarty, the Titans had the margin back to one converted try.
With 15 on the clock, the Titans built pressure. Repeat sets on the line, with Ash Taylor and Tyrone Peachey both producing nice end of set plays, saw the Gold Coast have an extended tilt at the Melbourne line.
Jaimin Jolliffe was collected high, Reimis Smith sent to the bin for ten minutes with just 13 minutes remaining in the game.
Brian Kelly went close enough for the referee to check but was deemed short, as the Titans threw everything at the Melbourne defence.
With under a minute left, Tyrone Peachey fed a ball into the in-goal for a chasing Sam Stone, who was unable to reach it. The Titans getting one last chance.
Of the dropout, the Titans had the ball touch almost every pair of hands as they desperately tried to find one last play. Space opened up down the left side for Phillip Sami but he couldn't get a pass to Esan Marsters. The Storm taking a 20 points to 14 victory.
The Titans return to Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast for back to back games against the Roosters and Sea Eagles and will be banking on strong local support as they look to push back into the NRL's top eight.