The Gold Coast Titans have gone down in a nail-biter, edged out by the St George-Illawarra Dragons in a 20-12 thriller to open their inaugural NRLW season.
Behind 14-12 with 20 seconds on the clock, Quincy Dodd put any chance of a heroic finish on ice for the Titans, on a historic day with the Gold Coast proudly making their debut in the national women's rugby league competition, culminating a journey of hard-work and determination that began in 2019.
It was a rewarding beginning for the new side, with plenty of positives for head coach Jamie Feeney to takeaway from the first outing before facing the Sydney Roosters in Wollongong next Sunday.
Match: Dragons v Titans
Round 1 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
The first quarter saw the side aim up in defence with the middle third holding the Dragons out and making plenty of metres to open the affair.
It took until the 20th minute for the NRLW incumbents to score first points; Tegan Berry on the end of a cut-out pass from Emma Tonegato to score in the corner, just beating a courageous Jetaya Faifua who tried her heart out to pull down the St George flyer.
The Titans toiled hard to hit back, but errors made the task tough to level the ledger.
With eight minutes to go to until the break, the Red V were in again on the left edge with Maddison Bartlett taking advantage of an out of position defensive pattern due to the brand-new combinations.
The Titans had their first opportunity to attack the line right on half-time thanks to back-to-back penalties, and it looked like they had made the Dragons pay with points, but a daring putdown by marquee signing Tazmin Gray was denied with the ball being dislodged by desperate defence centimetres from the line.
Coming out of the sheds with the focus on improving their completion rate for the final 35 minutes, the Dragons made the comeback even tough with Berry bagging her second try down the right flank, eight minutes after the restart.
The maiden match became a grind for both teams in the following ten minutes, until the first-ever points came for the Titans in the 46th minute - Kimiora Breayley-Nati capitalising on a short blindside by sending Tiana Raftstrand-Smith over to get back in the contest.
The conversion out-wide by Brianna Clark fired up the Titans to comeback and sneak home to claim victory and after sending traffic towards a wounded Dragons defensive line, Shannon Mato prevailed, barging over with five minutes to setup a grandstand finish, trailing 14-12.
A number of errors in the final moments made things awfully difficult and with just under 30 seconds on the clock, Quincy Dodd put a dagger in the hearts of the Titans; on the end of an offload from Elsie Albert to dive under the posts and secure the two competition points on offer with a 20-12 victory.
Match highlights: Titans v Dragons
Key talking points
- Evania Pelite was electrifying at fullback with some devastating carries and classy defence in her first match in the #1 jersey. The rugby-convert topped the charts with 165 running metres and one line-break
- Age is no barrier for Steph Hancock: turning 40 in a couple of weeks, her ever-reliable performance in the middle was welcomed and her experience helped the NRLW debutants in their first match
- Both Titans' No. 9s were workhorses in defence; with Brittany Breayley-Nati and Destiny Brill both making 27 tackles each - the top defenders in the match
- Feeney will make ball security a focus this week, only completing at 60 percent with 16 errors
- The Titans NRLW coach described the performance as "not very good" but feels the outing will be a steep learning curve for his new side to understand they won't be able to win if they drop as much ball as they did
Injury / judiciary concerns
- No major injuries to report from the Titans camp
- Jessica Elliston was placed on report in the 51st minute for high contact
- Tazmin Gray was placed on report in the 52nd minute for high contact