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Sami, Sexton star as Titans pipped in season opener

The Titans' season opener can only be described as an unbelievable contest against the Parramatta Eels, going down 32-28 in nail-biting fashion.

An incredible 10 tries were scored in the first 41 minutes before both teams entered a fierce stalemate, and three Mitchell Moses penalty goals proved to be the only difference in the final 39 minutes at CommBank Stadium.

Despite missing out on the two competition points, the Titans have plenty of positives to relish, including the return of a fit and firing Phil Sami, who scored two tries in the first game of 2022. Toby Sexton was also a shining light in only his fifth NRL appearance as the new club's halfback, as was rake Erin Clark who was also able to bag an impressive four-pointer starting at No. 9.

Justin Holbrook will also be happy with how the side responded to the late team changes due to injury, with both Greg Marzhew (replacing Corey Thompson) and Will Smith (replacing AJ Brimson) commendable in their call-ups, proving the breadth of depth the Titans coach has spoken about all week.

Match summary

Parramatta were first to score in the third minute after the home side capitalised around the Titans markers, leading to Sean Russell scoring in the corner, despite Jayden Campbell trying his absolute best to stop the winger from crossing.

The Eels were in again in the ninth minute with one of the most fortuitous plays ever seen on a rugby league field. A Mitch Moses kick from his 30-metre line hitting the goal-post padding before Russell scooped it up for his double within 10 minutes.

It was points aplenty at Parramatta in the first 11 minutes with the Titans getting their first try of the season proper thanks to flying Phil Sami. Attacking the Eels line, new half Toby Sexton delivered a perfect ‘Harbour Bridge’ pass to the rejuvenated Titans winger who finished off the passage of play planting the ball down firmly over the line.

Sexton oozes class

The fourth try of the afternoon was scored in the 19th minute when Shaun Lane slid over the line, beating Campbell and David Fifita who tried their absolute best to keep the Eels back-rower out.

The Titans pulled back the margin to just two points in the 24th minute as Sexton called the shots to find Parramatta well short on the left edge, allowing for Brian Kelly to just stroll over untouched.

Fans happily got their money’s worth with more points in the 28th minute, as the Eels found the line through Waqa Blake diving over on the left edge to make the deficit 20-12.

The home side flexed their muscle with yet another four-pointer in the 33rd minute, as Russell slid over for his hat-trick. Campbell tried his absolute best to stop the high-flying winger and showed absolute class in helping him from the field when injured in the act of scoring.

At 26-12 five minutes before the break, the Titans wanted at least one four-pointer to ease the burden ahead of half-time and instead of one… they got two.

Clark can't be stopped

Erin Clark targeted Clint Gutherson out of dummy-half bumping away the class fullback before stretching out to plant the Steeden on the chalk.

Amazingly, the ninth try of the game was scored in emphatic fashion with two minutes remaining. Powerhouse forward David Fifita had begun the game a little quiet, although stood up when he needed to the most with an incredible 55 metre line-break to setup Kelly’s double – the back-rower being dragged down by the Parramatta No. 1 before the Gold Coast shifted the ball from right to left through the line to allow the star outside back to cross on the left edge.

The point-scoring bonanza saw the Titans only trail 26-22 at half-time and they ran out of the sheds with zest, eager to score more points after an unbelievable 48 points were accrued in the opening 40 minutes.

David Fifita barges through the Eels defence

In the 41st minute, Will Smith put boot to ball, kicking down to Parramatta’s end for Sami to fly down with a speedy chase... leaping up and beating two Eels to pluck the footy like a thief in the night and score his double.

It looked as if Eels had made an error in the play-the-ball in the 65th minute before a captain's challenge dubiously ruled Isaac Liu had interfered with Ray Stone, allowing for Mitch Moses to level the ledger at 28-28.

The Eels were able to slot another two points from another tough call against the Titans to make it 30-28, this time captain Tino Fa'asuamaleaui being ruled to have obstructed Gutherson in the kick-chase.

In the final moments, Patrick Herbert tried a short drop-out to no avail, not going the required ten metres and Moses added two more points to cement a 32-28 victory over the courageous Titans in the season opener.

Match Highlights: Eels and Titans in 10-try thriller

Key talking points

  • The clash was a game of two halves and even within each period, had swings and roundabouts. The final 40 minutes tested the side’s defence, which stood tall; with only three penalty goals conceded.
  • Justin Holbrook will be very happy with the side’s completion rate in the opening half, finishing the first 40 minutes only making one error, completing 14 from 15 sets. The second half saw a little more loss of ball control, although the Titans held on to finish the game at 72 percent.
  • A takeaway from the recent trial match was the side’s quality scramble defence and that wasn’t lost in the season opener. A number of times through the match, the side was able to scramble well at the line, denying Parramatta on several occasions.
  • Young half Toby Sexton really took control and was impressive as the full-time No. 7. He had one try assist and one line-break assist, along with converting four from five attempts in his opening match of 2022.
  • The depth of the club has been spoken about all season and that was shown in today’s clash. With both Thompson and Brimson ruled out, Marzhew and Smith slotted in without incident and the Titans lost nothing when the four on the bench came on while the starters were spelling.
  • The job was made tougher for the Titans being on the wrong end of a 7-1 penalty count and is no doubt something Holbrook will review with the side ahead of next week’s clash against the Warriors.

Injury / judiciary concerns

  • Phil Sami left the field for a head injury assessment in the 33rd minute but passed and returned to the field ahead of the start of the second half.
Acknowledgement of Country

Gold Coast Titans proudly acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are situated, the Kombumerri families of the Yugambeh Language Region. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their continuing connections to the lands, waters and their extended communities throughout South East Queensland.