All league watchers knew the Titans were a genuine top-four team before this match. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’d be aware of how good a player Scott Prince is. You would have heard of Preston Campbell’s genius, Nathan Friend’s toughness and Anthony Laffranchi’s precision. But forget Prince, forget Campbell, Friend and Laffranchi – they didn’t defeat the Warriors. The Gold Coast’s ‘Generation X’ won them this game.
The absolute brilliance of young superstars Kevin Gordon, Esi Tonga, William Zillman and David Mead put the Warriors to the sword.
Gordon and Mead both scored doubles – both showed off their sheer speed as they each scored 95-metre intercept tries.
The Princes, Campbells, Friends and Laffranchis – and add to that the Minichiellos, Baileys, Harrisons and Rogers’ – provide the Titans with a great team nucleus. But their young players proved once and for all against the New Zealanders that they aren’t a weakness or a target in this team, they’re the X factor that can help win them big matches against the top sides.
The Warriors, on the other hand, can almost kiss their top-eight hopes goodbye after this loss. For much of the game they played a pretty attractive style of football, and certainly weren’t horrible, but mistakes continually plagued them and they didn’t seem capable of getting across the line when it really mattered. They were simply outclassed by the better team.
In most areas, the stats ended up even. The possession was shared 50:50, the error counts and tackles made were about the same – the difference was the Titans took their opportunities while the Warriors floundered.
The Game Swung When… Just 14 minutes into the match the Warriors were gifted a penalty right on the Titans’ line. They had just made a great run, which was set up by an excellent Micheal Luck ball and a freakish Lewis Brown offload which put Stacey Jones into space.
The Warriors’ offloading was hurting the Gold Coast, and they clearly had them on the rack at this point. However, when they received the offside penalty they elected to go for goal. This was almost a concession that they couldn’t score points, and the negative option only instilled their rivals with confidence.
The Gold Coast scored five minutes later and soon it was 16-2 to the home side and the match was as good as over.
The Gold Coast similarly had a chance to go for goal in the first half but went for the try instead – and got it. The Warriors’ lack of confidence to do the same was the difference.
Who Was Hot… Gold Coast’s back three. William Zillman at fullback made nine runs for 182 metres. He looked dangerous for the entire match and his brilliant footwork and electric turn of speed carved the Warriors up on various occasions. He broke four tackles and made two line breaks.
Kevin Gordon on one wing scored two tries, ran for 179 metres, broke three tackles and also made a line break.
While David Mead on the other flank ran for 190 metres, and had a tackle break and line break to go with his double.
While we’re talking about outside men, the Warriors’ Kevin Locke had an outstanding match in a losing team. Locke showed that he is perhaps the fastest man in rugby league when he ran down William Zillman in the first half with ease and then stopped a certain Preston Campbell try in the second with a remarkable goal-line cover tackle. He made just six tackles – but at least three of them were try-savers.
Who Was Not… The Warriors’ halves. Their no.6 and no.7 just haven’t come up with enough this year.
Stacey Jones has six try assists for the year, while Nathan Fien, Lance Hohaia and Joel Moon, who have shared the five eighth duties, have zilch.
Against the Titans, Jones made some busts and often looked dangerous with the ball, but he needs to be setting up tries.
Similarly, Lance Hohaia, who played five eighth at Skilled Park, always looked dangerous with the ball in hand but he needed to be setting up opportunities for his outside men. Not enough chances are being created with the football.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Intercept tries are a rarity in rugby league these days, but to see two near length-of-the-field efforts in the one game was quite incredible, not to mention thrilling for the pro-Titans crowd.
With eight minutes to go in the first half, the Warriors attacked the Gold Coast’s left edge. Lance Hohaia tried to find his outside man, but like a thief in the night, David Mead sprinted in and plucked it out of the air.
It was a case of shut the gate again in the second half when in the 64th minute, Kevin Gordon read Stacey Jones like a cheap novel and ran the length unchallenged.
Injuries: Thankfully none – the Titans couldn’t handle too many more than they already have.
Refs Watch: Controversy played no part in this match.
NRL.com Best & Fairest…
3 points – William Zillman (Titans): Although he hasn’t had the chance to start at fullback very often this season, he showed his immense potential in this match. Player of the future – but unfortunately for NSW he’s another Queenslander! 2 points – Kevin Gordon (Titans): Thrilling to watch and a natural try-scorer. Burnt the Warriors to within a cinder; 1 point – Nathan Friend (Titans): Was once again the general in the middle of the field. Set up the Titans’ first try, got away an offload, made 34 tackles, broke two tackles and ran for 44 metres.
Titans 28 (D Mead 2, K Gordon 2, A Laffranchi tries; S Prince 4 goals) def Warriors 12 (L Hohaia, L Brown tries; K Locke 2 goals) at Skilled Park. Crowd: 20,031.