Gold Coast Titans went into the Sunday showdown with the Wests Tigers as strong favourites; going into the clash with two wins from three in 2020 while the Titans were without a win in a competitive game for nearly a year.
Story of the match
The Tigers made the better start during the opening stages and were rewarded as Fullback Adam Doueihi grounded under pressure; Marshall converted to hand his side a 6-0 lead.
It was looking ominous for the struggling Titans by the 12th minute of the game as the Tigers extended their lead, prolific winger Nofoaluma showed some good game reading and anticipation to intercept a loose pass from Titans Halfback Ash Taylor on halfway, he had enough pace to go under the sticks; the conversion was a formality. 0-12.
Taylor atoned for his error however landing a momentum-shifting 40-20, and points for the hosts soon followed as influential second-rower Kevin Proctor hit a good line and powered his way over. The Titans then implemented a lengthy spell of pressure on the Tigers and on 26 minutes Antony Don collected Taylor’s cross-field kick to barge his way over.
The conversion was successful from Taylor, making Titans 12-12 Tigers. In an entertaining first half, the score was 12-12 at the break. Wests won the physical battle early doors but the Titans reacted well to going two scores behind and their execution was good enough to get back into the game. An intriguing second half in store.
The Tigers had allowed their concentration and intensity levels to drop during the final twenty minutes of the first half, possible elements of complacency.
It didn’t take them long however to register the opening points of the second half. The ball went through several hands before it eventually went out to the right wing where a speculative kick from Nofoaluma landed nicely in-front of his centre Leilua who had a simple finish. Marshall, who was involved in the build-up, couldn’t convert. 12-16.
The Tigers began the second half with the physicality, aggression and dominance their pack is renowned for and the Titans were struggling to restrict the yards during sets and before long they extended their lead as the impressive Nofoaluma produced a magnificent, authoritative take from Doueihi’s cross-field attacking kick. 12-22.
However, against the run of play during the 58th minute, Titans Second-Rower Keegan Hipgrave barged through a couple of Tigers defenders to power over under the sticks. The conversion was a formality. 18-22.
A similar pattern emerged to the first half as the Titans scored back-to-back tries. The Tigers failed to deal with a high kick and the Titans centre pounced and grounded but a knock on in the build-up from Don was identified by the bunker.
A closely-fought, tense final fifteen minutes was set up as the Titans began to seize the momentum. The hosts enjoyed a spell of pressure near their opponents’ line but a combination of poor attacking execution and strong contact in defence from the Tigers prevented any score. It remained 18-22 heading into the final twelve minutes of the match.
Just two minutes later however, Ash Taylor, who had a good individual display despite the early error leading to the Tigers’ second kick, put in a perfectly accurate, well-weighted kick for Winger Brian Kelly to finish. Taylor was unable to convert but a grand-stand finish awaited. 22-22. It was looking like a cruel finish for the Titans as during the 77th minute following a dominant yardage set from the Tigers, veteran Benji Marshall landed a field goal to edge his side in-front.
The drama continued however and following a successful short restart, the finale of the match saw the Titans dramatically clinch their first competitive win in a year, Brian Kelly improvised a kick from the left wing back into centre field on the last and Phillip Sami was at the right place at the right time to touch down.
What’s next for both sides?
It was a performance of mental strength, improved execution and a general never-say-die attitude from the Gold Coast Titans who battled back from behind on three occasions to eventually win 28-23. The two points are priceless and should give the club a much-needed revitalisation.
It was a bitterly disappointing and frustrating night for the Tigers who just couldn’t get over the line. They allowed intensity levels to drop time and time again during the encounter and switched off during the game-clinching try. It has the feel of a banana skin defeat and one that got away from the Tigers.
They need to put this game behind them, it’s gone and they have a very tough fixture next week at home to a Canberra Raiders side who will be looking to bounce back following defeat to the Newcastle Knights.