Brisbane’s late-season resurgence kicked into full gear last night after they held on against a fast-finishing Gold Coast outfit to progress to Week Two of the finals with a 40-32 win at Skilled Park.
The Broncos produced some dazzling football to jump out to a 30-10 lead early in the second half but four second-half Gold Coast tries closed the gap to just two points before a late Dave Taylor intercept sealed the deal.
A raucous crowd of more than 27,000 were on hand to witness the Titans’ finals debut and although they left disappointed they certainly couldn’t complain about the quality of play on offer.
Brisbane led 12-10 with 12 minutes of the first half remaining but scored three brilliant tries to break the game open. The first came after Gold Coast winger David Mead spilled a bomb straight into the hands of Israel Folau, the second from a brilliant kick behind the line for Jharal Yow Yeh and the third when Dave Taylor offloaded for Folau down the left sideline, the bulking centre then looping a pass back inside for Darren Lockyer to cross.
It seemed to signal the end of the contest – but the Titans had other ideas.
Their comeback was kick-started by Kevin Gordon, who found an intercept on his own tryline and raced the length of the field to score. Brad Meyers then crashed over from close range to close the gap to 10 and when Gordon crossed for his second with 20 minutes remaining, it was game on.
In the end, however, basic errors from their co-captains proved costly for the home side.
In almost identical fashion, prop Luke Bailey gifted Folau his third try of the game with an awful offload that gave the Titans no chance before Scott Prince did the same for Taylor to add the finishing touches with five minutes to go.
At least they live to fight another day.
The Titans have a chance to make amends next weekend when they face Parramatta, while Brisbane face off against St George Illawarra.
The Game Swung When… Luke Bailey threw an intercept straight into the waiting arms of Brisbane centre Israel Folau.
The Titans had all of the momentum at the time, having scored three consecutive tries to close the gap to four, but Bailey’s loose pass stopped them in their tracks.
The Titans did hit back with a scorching try to Gordon soon after, but yet another comeback proved to be a bridge too far.
Who Was Hot… There were stars all over the field in this most exhilarating of semi-finals.
Brisbane’s backline – riding on the coat-tails of rampaging prop Dave Taylor – were unstoppable in the first half with Folau and Justin Hodges particularly devastating but the Gold Coast’s own speedster Kevin Gordon had his say in the second half as he sparked his side’s comeback.
Mat Rogers was also impressive before being heavily concussed late in the game.
Who Was Not… It would be harsh to find any great criticism of any player in a game in which both sides showed just why rugby league is the greatest game of all.
However, Titans co-captains Luke Bailey and Scott Prince will be disappointed by the loose passes they threw late in the game to deny their side any chance of a stunning win.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Combining tremendous running rugby league with pinpoint kicking, the Broncos and Titans scored almost identical tries that were breathtakingly brilliant.
Brisbane’s effort after 33 minutes saw Lockyer and Karmichael Hunt combine with a perfectly worked second-man play before Hunt kicked through for Jharal Yow-Yeh to score.
The Gold Coast returned fire in the 72nd minute when Scott Prince chipped over the top down the blind side and David Mead scorched through to score.
Injuries… Mat Rogers (Titans) – concussion, TBA.
Bad Boys… Peter Wallace was placed on report for a high shot on David Mead. He escaped charges though.
Refs Watch… Titans coach John Cartwright was fuming after the match at a series of decisions by referees Ben Cummins and Ashley Klein that he believed impacted heavily on the result – namely a try awarded to Israel Folau after he appeared to push Chris Walker in the lead-up. Walker was later penalised for a push on Darren Lockyer.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Dave Taylor (Broncos): Scored a try, ran for 140 metres and was simply unstoppable when charging at the Gold Coast defensive line; 2 points – Israel Folau (Broncos): Scored three tries and was a constant thorn in the Gold Coast’s side; 1 point – Kevin Gordon (Titans): Sparked his side back into life with a brilliant intercept try. Finished the game with two tries and 160 metres.
Broncos 40 (I Folau 3, D Lockyer, A McCullough, D Taylor, J Yow-Yeh tries; C Parker 6 goals) def Titans 32 (K Gordon 2, D Mead 2, P Campbell, B Meyers tries; S Prince 4 goals) at Skilled Park. Crowd: 27,227.