Titans v Wests Tigers: Five key points
Ash Taylor celebrates in style, Jason Taylor praises his side's defensive effort, Titans again frayed on their edges and the highs and lows of Josh Hoffman's shift to the centres.
Taylor's coming of age party
It was fitting that two days after his 21st birthday halfback Ashley Taylor would have even more reason to celebrate, playing a major role in the Titans' 30-18 win over the Wests Tigers and scoring his maiden try in the NRL.
In the same week that Kane Elgey re-signed with the Titans, Taylor showed that he is going to make the No.7 jersey a coveted one with a heavy involvement in attack that included a nice set piece with Josh Hoffman that led to his first try in the top grade.
Handed the goal-kicking duties he responded with a perfect five goals from as many attempts but his five missed tackles again highlighted the transition he is making to play in the NRL.
"He's building. Defensively he's improving, we know he's got a good kick and he's got good speed," said Gold Coast coach Neil Henry.
"We know he can turn up and support but it's an ongoing process for him and he's starting to get a little bit more comfortable in his role but there's still a long way to go with our halves combination.
"It's a work in progress."
Defensive energy fuelling Tigers attack
It's rare that the men in the middle receive the plaudits for the spectacular tries that the Tigers have delivered in the opening three weeks but their early ascendancy against the Titans was built on a fast moving defensive line and powerful charges.
Across the field the Tigers shut down the Titans attack by pushing up aggressively on their line and as they forced errors, attacking opportunities opened up at the other end. As that energy dwindled and errors mounted, their attack faltered.
Winger David Nofoaluma had an incredible 11 tackle busts against the Titans but said it was the work of the forwards allowing the backs to score some spectacular tries.
"Aaron Woods, Jessue Sue, Tim Grant, they've been outstanding," Nofoaluma told NRL.com.
"No one sees what they do in the middle that gets us forward and creates opportunities for the backs when we get down the field.
"They get us going from our end and when they get forward us backs do the fancy stuff and score tries but it comes from the start of the set which is the forwards."
Despite conceding in excess of 20 points for the third week in succession, coach Jason Taylor said he was heartened by the way his team defended their line during stages of the game.
"That scoreline we are not happy with and we're not happy at all about that, but we defended our try-line," Taylor said. "Because of the amount of errors we made we defended our tryline really well, there was some really encouraging stuff from us tonight the way we defended our line but we just had to do it too often."
Titans frayed again on their edges
An inexperienced half, new combinations and players settling into new positions has made the Titans susceptible on their edges and the Tigers were quick to pounce on Saturday night. Their first foray attacking the Titans' left edge yielded the first of Naiqama's three tries with Zeb Taia, Hoffman and Taylor alone responsible for 11 of Gold Coast's 33 missed tackles.
"For a couple of weeks now we've been exposed a little bit on our edge and that's something that is ongoing and that we need to work on," said coach Neil Henry.
"The players know that. They're disappointed in some regards in how some points were established out there by the Wests Tigers but we'll take the win."
Calm heads fail to prevail
Their brand of football has had the entire NRL in raptures all week but Tigers captain Aaron Woods said their fast start against the Titans may have contributed to the ill discipline that followed.
After 17 minutes it looked like the Tigers by plenty after two tries to Naiqama but Woods believes his team were guilty of getting carried away rather than focusing on basic ball control, the Tigers completing just 10 of 16 sets in the first half.
"We didn't earn the right to play footy and we were trying to throw it out of our bums too early," Woods said, as only he can.
"We started off all right in the first 20 minutes and then the momentum swung and we didn't handle it too well.
"We hung in there in the end, it could have blown out to 40 or 50 but they got back into the game."
Hoffman still adjusting to life in the centres
Josh Hoffman's highs and lows that come with a full-time shift to the centres were on show against the Tigers with some enterprising attack mixed with some suspect defence.
Perhaps cautious of leaving Taylor exposed, Hoffman was caught out of position when Naiqama scored in the fourth minute but hit back nicely in the second half with a line break that led to Taylor's maiden NRL try.
"He went through and it was a nice run, good for his confidence," Neil Henry said of Hoffman's run back through the Tigers defence.
"We know that he can play like that. He's down a little bit on confidence around his defence but we'll work hard on that. He's played enough footy to pick that up."