A FINE evening and a firm surface at Skilled Park saw a fast game that went down to the last minute. The Titans emerged victorious but there was nothing between these teams, they could have played another 80 minutes and there still would’ve been a try in it either way.
Both backlines’ precision was just a bit off, there was a fair bit of dropped ball, the Raiders the bigger culprit. But the forward packs ran at each other at high pace and defences were tried and tested all evening. It was a good scrap between evenly matched teams.
The Titans attacked well but came up against spirited Raiders’ defence. They’ll score tries playing this way, indeed they look like a side that’s not far away from putting 50 on someone.
Canberra won’t be totally disheartened by the loss; they lost their halfback with 30 minutes to play but were in this match for all bar one minute. In the end they just dropped too much ball.
The Game Swung When… In the 70th minute on the last tackle, Raiders back-rower Bronson Harrison sent a beautiful spiral pass midfield to Alan Tongue who kicked for the corner where Adrian Purtell did well to dive and touch down. That squared the ledger 10-all, Campese missing the conversion from the sideline.
Six minutes later Campese missed a field-goal attempt when he missed the ball completely. The Titans took the ball into Raiders territory and Prince forced a repeat set with a high-class grubber. And then the match-winner: Prince took the ball on the 20-metre line, faked to drop a goal and sent a wide pass to Mat Rogers who ran through the Raiders and sent the crowd into rapture.
Who Was Hot… Prince looked typically classy, laying on all three of the Titans’ tries and breaking four tackles. Mark Minichiello made some good inroads as a back-rower (11 runs, 91 metres) as did Anthony Laffranchi (21 runs, 147 metres, 34 tackles). Preston Campbell stepped and ran threateningly at the back. And for the second week in a row Nathan Friend completed an even 50 tackles. Chris Walker ran with menace.
The Titans look pretty good with the footy, there’s a bit of razzle-dazzle and they throw the ball wide given the chance. Perhaps need to lay more of a platform up the middle and get Walker running off the forwards, but it’s still good to see them going wide in a game that teams can play robotically.
The Raiders were best served by Campese who showed his undoubted quality several times, his kicking (bar the field-goal air-swing) and passing were high class. Rookie fullback Josh Dugan looked pretty handy, as did rookie hooker Travis Waddell. The Raiders’ best forward was David Shillington (19 runs, 136 metres, 19 tackles) while Joe Picker (3 tackle-breaks, 31 tackles) was a handful.
Who Was Not… The Raiders were guilty of far too much dropped ball. They defended with great desperation and kept out waves of Titans attack. But Campese didn’t get enough ball in space at the right end of the field in which to display his running, kicking, passing skills. Indeed Campese was only able to run four times and the weight of possession the Gold Coast’s way meant the big Raiders forwards did a lot of tackling.
And Marc Herbert is a solid player and no-one doubt’s Alan Tongue’s ability. But the Raiders need another playmaker to take the heat off Campese.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Canberra ran the ball on the fifth tackle when Campese swung the ball wide and the ball went through the backs’ hands. The movement broke down when Jared Croker dropped the pass but it was nice to see the Raiders trying something. Coach David Furner invented a scrum move, so running on the fifth perhaps isn’t that surprising.
Raiders props David Shillington and Scott Logan are so big they look those towers in Kuala Lumpur holding hands. If Tom Learoyd-Lahrs stood between them they’d look like gigantic cricket stumps.
And tyro hooker Travis Waddell looked like a schoolboy who was roped in to fill in numbers. Good little player, though.
Bad Boys… Prince and Campese were warned for yelling at the referees but otherwise there was no spite in a hard and fast game.
Refs Watch… Though Prince and the parochial home crowd didn’t think so, Steve Lyons and Tony Archer had pretty good games. Lyons did rule a Prince pass forward that came off a Raider’s arm… but it looked forward on first sight.
Video Ref Phil Cooley ruled against a Scott Prince try, ruling correctly that Prince’s kick had hit Minichiello’s leg in front of the kicker. Cooley was called on again for Zillman’s try – also from a kick by Prince – and there was debate if Zillman was onside. Close one.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Scott Prince (Titans): Responsible for all of the Titans’ points in one respect or another. A class act in hot form; 2 points – Anthony Laffranchi (Titans): A power of work in the middle; 1 point – Terry Campese (Raiders): Looked the Raiders’ man most likely all game.
Titans 16 (A Harrison, W Zillman, M Rogers tries; S Prince 2 goals) def Raiders 10 (J Croker, A Purtell tries; T Campese goal) at Skilled Park. Crowd: 18,510.