Sezer and Roberts guide Titans to victory
It may end up being the win that prevents the Titans from collecting a second wooden spoon which was reason enough for Gold Coast to celebrate a 24-14 win over the Eels at Cbus Super Stadium on Monday night.
A 45-metre solo effort from James Roberts after an Eels error on halfway sealed just the Titans' third win at home this season, marking his 15th try of the season with a rabbits ears post-try celebration and by signalling to the Aboriginal colours worn proudly on his wrist.
It was the first time of the night that Roberts had been able to find space of any significance and he evaded two Eels defenders before running around Semi Radradra to score in the corner and break his side's five-game losing streak.
If it was Roberts who sealed the two competition points that lifted the Titans off the bottom of the Telstra Premiership table, it was five-eighth Aidan Sezer who engineered the win with a superb kicking display that set up tries for his teammates and provided polish to the end of Gold Coast's sets that was so obviously lacking in his month out injured.
Trailing 10-6 at the break, the Titans were able to strike the first blow of the second stanza when Sezer threaded a grubber kick in behind the Eels' defensive line for Nene Macdonald to steam through and ground the ball just to the left of the posts after four minutes.
Macdonald chanced his arm from dummy-half eight minutes later with the on-field decision to award a try based on the advice of the touch judge rubber-stamped by the video referee and Sezer's conversion pushed the Titans' advantage out to eight points.
On the back of a Macdonald bust from the ensuing set the Titans poured down the field playing a style of football they hadn't produced for more than a month, David Mead denied a try in the right corner when he was tackled by opposite Radradra a fraction of a second before the ball was in his grasp after a Sezer grubber to the corner.
Having absorbed plenty of pressure on their own line the Eels clawed their way back into the contest courtesy of an individual show of strength from winger Bureta Faraimo in the 69th minute.
A late inclusion, Faraimo cut back on the inside after a quick pass from Vai Toutai to power through attempted tackles from Ryan James, Kierran Moseley, Josh Hoffman and Kalifa Faifai Loa to bridge the gap.
But as they had started the game errors again cost the Eels with the Titans – and Roberts in particular – making them pay for their eighth turnover of the game.
There were significant changes to the 17-man squads for both sides prior to kick-off with the Titans going in without skipper Nate Myles but welcoming back both Kierran Moseley and Dave Taylor while the Eels lost both centres Will Hopoate and Brad Takairangi to injury.
After the two teams resembled a pair of seals trying to juggle a slippery cake of soap in the opening exchanges, Titans halfback Kane Elgey posted first points in the seventh minute when he followed through on a Greg Bird grubber kick into the in-goal.
Elgey had hoisted the bomb that was spilt by Radradra 15 metres out from Parramatta's line, Bird quickly snatching the rebound and dropping the ball onto his boot almost immediately to set up a foot race that Elgey easily won.
The Eels went close to scoring twice in the first 12 minutes but David Gower and Tim Mannah both spilled the ball with the try-line within reach before Junior Paulo charged over the top of Elgey to get the Eels on the board after 13 minutes.
Parramatta had gone on the attack courtesy of a searching kick return from fullback Reece Robinson and capitalised when Agnatius Paasi was pinged for being offside on his goal-line four tackles later.
With seven errors and six penalties in the first 23 minutes of the game neither side was able to mount any sustained pressure or even construct an attacking set that had purpose and direction, a dive over from dummy-half by Eels hooker Nathan Peats in the 30th minute putting the visitors in front for the first time on the night.
The Titans looked as they may strike back through another Bird-Elgey piece of interplay four minutes from half-time before Faraimo came from the clouds to diffuse the situation just metres out from the Eels' try-line.
The half-time margin may have only been four points but the Eels were the team with most of the running, easily winning the territory battle and racking up 300 metres more than their opponents with 58 per cent of possession.
Gold Coast Titans 24 (Nene Macdonald 2, Kane Elgey, James Roberts tries; Aidan Sezer 4 goals) defeated Parramatta Eels 14 (Junior Paulo, Nathan Peats, Bureta Faraimo tries; Reece Robinson 1 goal) at Cbus Super Stadium. Half-time: Eels 10-6. Crowd: 7,496. Holden Cup: Eels 33-22.