Titans edge Dragons in thriller
Two tries in a typically enigmatic Dave Taylor performance has seen an injury ravaged Gold Coast Titans stun the Dragons 28-26 in front of more than 12,000 fans at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Taylor burrowed his way over from dummy-half seemingly in slow motion with three minutes to play to get his team back level at 26-apiece.
That left young halfback Kane Elgey with a conversion 15 metres in from touch to give the Titans the lead, a duty he fulfilled with calmness beyond his years, a late flurry by the Dragons unable to deliver the match-winner in the closing moments.
One of a handful of Titans players appearing at their home ground for the final time, it was fitting that Taylor left the Gold Coast faithful wondering why he had been unable to deliver similar performances on a more regular basis during his three seasons at the club.
The Catalans-bound 'Coal Train' scored his first try with a bullocking run in the 30th minute and in an 80-minute display ran for 131 metres, made eight tackle busts, two offloads and two line-breaks as well as a couple of customary Dave Taylor errors.
Trying to find a way to fight back from an eight-point half-time deficit, the Titans withstood some concerted attack on their own line early after the break and on the back of a penalty marched their way downfield and came up trumps with a Kane Elgey cross-field kick that David Mead planted his hand on after a scramble in the in-goal.
Despite having just one fit player on the bench with 25 minutes of the game still to play they conjured a try in the 61st minute through Mead again who spectacularly pulled in a Daniel Mortimer kick into the right corner and grounded it with a lone finger still on the ball to put his team in front.
Their ascendancy lasted just a few minutes however when an error by James Roberts attacking the Dragons' line gave Gareth Widdop an 89-metre path to the Titans' try-line which no Gold Coast player was able to cut short.
But with a second wooden spoon looming large in the wake of the Tigers' win over the Warriors earlier in the day, the Titans threw everything they had at the finals-bound Dragons but it was Taylor who came up with the critical play.
Starting the game with plenty of speed and energy, the Dragons took until just the fourth minute before Mitch Rein crashed over on the back of some enterprising lead-up work from Trent Merrin and Josh Dugan.
Merrin had all but died with the ball just inside the Titans' 30-metre line before scooping a late offload to Gareth Widdop who sent Dugan on a run that finished 10 metres out from the try-line. A lightning-quick play-the-ball from Dugan allowed Rein to find space in behind the markers and squeeze his way over.
A Gareth Widdop penalty goal in the 11th minute extended the visitors' lead to eight but the Titans were soon able to mount some pressure at the other end, a penalty and a repeat set on the back of a Elgey grubber into the in-goal.
They appeared to have converted territory into points in the 17th minute but a 'try' ruling on an Elgey four-pointer was overturned by the video referee who deemed he had failed to ground a Mortimer grubber kick.
They had another claim sent upstairs for verification in the 23rd minute and on this occasion a powerful charge from Agnatius Paasi was awarded and the conversion from Elgey reduced the margin to just two points.
On the back of an error coming out of their own end the Titans were punished for failing to shut down the ball as offload after offload from the Dragons freed up enough space around the middle of the field for Mike Cooper to crash over under the posts.
Having missed Cooper at the other end, Taylor went some way to redeeming himself when he hit a hole at speed off a Mortimer pass close to the line and was too much for Widdop, Mata'utia and Thompson to stop.
But just as they had earlier when they had clawed their way back into the contest the Titans invited the Dragons into their half with back-to-back penalties that was more than enough for Benji Marshall to explode off his right foot and dive in under the Gold Coast defence beside the posts for a handy eight-point buffer.
It was almost 10 points the difference at half-time but a penalty goal attempt by Widdop from a Taylor short kick-off gone wrong went left of the posts.
Gold Coast Titans 28 (David Mead 2, Dave Taylor 2, Agnatius Paasi tries; Kane Elgey 4 goals) def. St George Illawarra Dragons 26 (Mitch Rein, Mike Cooper, Benji Marshall, Gareth Widdop tries; Gareth Widdop 5 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium. Crowd: 12,335. Half-time: Dragons 20-12.