THEY may have been without their prince but the Titans still gave their fans the royal treatment with a clinical win over the previously unbeaten Bulldogs.
With halfback Scott Prince sitting in the stands, veterans Mat Rogers and Preston Campbell stepped up to take the throne, directing the home side with gusto and both scoring great individual tries to seal an important result.
The Bulldogs failed to respect the ball and as such invited the Titans to beat them; something the home side had no trouble accepting.
It capped off a tough week, where the NRL handed the club a breach notice, intending to strip them of two points for an interchange bungle against Penrith.
The Game Swung When… The Titans dominated either side of halftime. Luke O’Dwyer scored from a kick in the 31st minute, Preston Campbell went over in the 35th minute and Rogers was over just three minutes after the break to take the Titans from 4-0 down to 14-6 in front (Hazem El Masri nailed a penalty goal for the Bulldogs on halftime).
The Bulldogs got to within two thanks to a Bryson Goodwin try but Esi Tonga’s touchdown was enough to seal the win.
The Bulldogs had some late chances which were denied. Ben Roberts was ruled to have passed the ball forward in the 71st minute, a devastating but correct call as Goodwin had gone over again from the pass.
Just three minutes later the visitors had one last chance to mount an attack and get within a try for the final moments. From a penalty, Greg Eastwood sucked in a handful of defenders but Brett Kimmorley and David Stagg both tried to support and ended up getting in each other’s way which resulted in an obstruction.
Who Was Hot… The Titans have had trouble in the past without Prince but Mat Rogers and Preston Campbell were impressive. Rogers scored a crucial try, kicked a few goals and added a try assist and a line break while Campbell, playing halfback, also scored a nice try, set another up and broke the line.
Prop Luke Bailey was his usual powerhouse self, making 175 metres and adding 25 tackles, while Mark Minichiello was also busy with 141 metres gained in just 50 minutes.
For the Bulldogs, halfback Brett Kimmorley tried hard, making some inroads – but giving away four penalties wasn’t ideal. Lock David Stagg also played strongly with 44 tackles and seven offloads.
Who Was Not… The Bulldogs as a unit will rue the amount of errors they made – 18 errors are way too many for a first grade side. Only four Bulldogs players were error-free in the match: Chris Armit, David Stagg, Greg Eastwood and Jon Kite.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… They might not be the most spectacular tries you’ll ever see but the four-pointers to Campbell and Rogers were classic stuff.
Campbell used just enough footwork and guile by throwing the slightest of dummies to slip between defenders, while Rogers showed great strength to barge his way over. He called for the ball on the short side on the last tackle and the all-or-nothing play looked doomed when he hit a brick wall of three defenders. But using all of his experience, the dual international burrowed his way under to touch down.
Special mentions for the Esi Tonga try which came off a perfected set move. Hooker Nathan Friend performed a run-around with Aaron Cannings before sending the ball left where Rogers found Tonga on the outside of his man.
Injuries… Both sides appeared to come through the match relatively unscathed.
Bad Boys… Nothing to report.
Ref Watch… Alan Shortall and Jared Maxwell managed to get through most of the match without drama, although an offside penalty from Shortall right before the winning try upset the ’Dogs a little. Shortall refused to explain his decision to Bulldogs skipper Andrew Ryan (which he is quite within his right to do) which upset the ’Dogs further. Before they could stop complaining Esi Tonga had touched down to score.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Preston Campbell (Titans): Thrust into halfback at late notice Campbell controlled the match and ensured it was his side that emerged victorious; 2 points – Mat Rogers (Titans): Provided Campbell with the ultimate scrum base partner, setting up the last try and scoring an important one himself to push his side home; 1 point – David Stagg (Bulldogs): Never stopped trying to lift his side back into the match. Has become much more than just a defensive player, providing crucial touches in attack and offloading at will.
Titans 20 (L O’Dwyer, P Campbell, M Rogers, E Tonga tries; M Rogers 2 goals) def Bulldogs 12 (A Ryan, B Goodwin tries; H El Masri 2 goals) at Skilled Park. Crowd: 19,854.