THE Titans survived a real scare from the Roosters, who by now must think they need to erect a shrine to the football gods in order to get some luck and a victory.
It took a 79th-minute miracle putdown from Titans winger Chris Walker to rescue his side after they surrendered an 18-6 halftime lead to the much-improved and determined Roosters.
In a game that failed to reach any real heights, the Roosters seemingly outplayed the Titans in all aspects except the one where it counts most: on the scoreboard.
They gained more territory across the ground (1343 metres to 1056 metres), completed more sets (82 per cent to 69 per cent) and missed fewer tackles (24 to 38) but when Walker stretched himself to the line despite having half his body over the sideline yet suspended in the air, the visitors had snatched an unlikely victory. The putdown was ultra-impressive as there must have been half a millimetre in the difference between winning the game and being bundled into touch.
As a result the tri-colours remain in the wooden spoon position on the NRL ladder after five losses on the trot, while the Titans join the Dragons and Bulldogs atop the pile (third on differential).
The Game Swung When… Obviously the last-ditch try from the Titans was where the magic happened for the Gold Coast but also their eight-minute flurry nearing halftime was the crucial passage of play in the scheme of things.
Down 6-0, John Cartwright’s team scored three converted tries between the 29th and 37th minutes to take an 18-6 lead into the break and while they didn’t score again till the death, it was enough to take the competition points.
The Roosters’ defence lapsed terribly in that period, with the first two tries to Nathan Friend and Aaron Cannings being particularly soft. Brad Fittler’s boys failed to give up though and when they scored through local junior Tom Symonds in the 72nd minute to go up 20-18 it looked like they may in fact pull a great comeback victory out of the bag. Alas, no.
Who Was Hot… The Titans weren’t at their best but hooker Nathan Friend was solid as usual. He scored one try, set up another and made 38 tackles to lead the way.
Anthony Laffranchi was busy with 108 metres gained and 30 tackles (although he missed seven which is unacceptable for a rep player) and Aaron Cannings added starch from the bench with 103 metres and a try.
For the Roosters, Nate Myles was impressive on his way to 125 metres and 25 tackles, while the returning Anthony Cherrington and bench forward Frank Paul Nuuausala were offloading in traffic to get some attacking sets rolling.
Tom Symonds looks a player of the future after a nice 55-minute effort from the bench.
Who Was Not… There were no stand-out bad performances… the Titans were a bit flat in general and the Roosters’ goal line defence left a lot to be desired.
But if the Gold Coast want to be in their first final series and actually do well they’ll need to rid their game of these flat efforts. If they turn up in September and put in an effort like this, they’ll be shoved out the back door quicker than a Preston Campbell sidestep.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… The last Roosters try, scored by Bondi United junior Tom Symonds, was the pick of the match. With the Roosters in the midst of a comeback thanks to two Sisa Waqa tries it was Symonds’ four-pointer that gave them a real chance at a win.
Braith Anasta powered up a bomb from the 40-metre line and while it almost hit the stratosphere it only travelled about 15 metres forward. As a result the Titans backed off from a challenge and Waqa was given a free shot at a catch. He failed to take the ball cleanly but batted it backwards to Mitchell Aubusson who offloaded to Pearce, who flick-passed to Waqa, who released Nuuausala who then passed the pill on to Symonds. Symonds powered ahead, showed agility to step in traffic, then bulldozed over Nathan Friend to grab his maiden NRL try.
One man lost amongst the hype of other players when it comes to Origin selections is Roosters and 2008 New South Wales halfback Mitchell Pearce. His fourth-minute individual try was worthy of special mention, stepping hard off his right foot twice before scooting between three defenders from close range.
Injuries… There were no major injuries in this contest.
Bad Boys… Luke O’Dwyer launched himself onto Braith Anasta and started a nice little push and shove after he perceived the Roosters skipper had inappropriately pushed Preston Campbell. But otherwise the match was pretty tame.
Refs Watch… Ben Cummins and Alan Shortall largely stayed out of the limelight – just the way fans like it. While plenty is said when the officials make one ‘dud’ call here and there, nothing is ever said when they are inconspicuous. And this pair was.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Nathan Friend (Titans): The Gold Coast hooker toiled all match, making his usual bunch of tackles (38) and created some havoc from the ruck with a try and a try assist; 2 points – Nate Myles (Roosters): Was the main go-forward man for the Roosters and showed why he is part of the successful Queensland unit with a non stop performance; 1 point – Tom Symonds (Roosters): For a young rookie Symonds played above his weight and looks likely to be a rising star for the Roosters. The side could do much worse than focus on keeping the local junior around for some time to come.
Titans 24 (N Friend, A Cannings, E Tonga, C Walker tries; S Prince 4 goals) def Roosters 20 (S Waqa 2, M Pearce, T Symonds tries; C Fitzgibbon, B Anasta goals) at Bluetongue Stadium. Crowd: 6,232.