Titans v Broncos: Five key points
The south-east Queensland derby shows signs of life, James Roberts delivers on his Gold Coast return, Darius Boyd's class shines through and Titans' slow starts again come back to haunt them.
Rivalry shows signs of life
Fuelled by some pre-game banter from the coaches designed to bring a harder edge to a south-east Queensland rivalry that has been decidedly one-sided, the largest crowd at Cbus Super Stadium in three years turned up full of hope. That seemed dashed for the Titans fans amongst the 21,080 in attendance for most of the game until their team staged yet another stirring comeback to claw their way back to a six-point deficit and kept them on the edge of their seats until Agnatius Paasi tried one too many offloads five minutes from full-time.
At full-strength the Titans were facing a difficult assignment but having lost Tyrone Roberts during the week and David Shillington in the warm-up they were on the back foot from the start. The match finished with some vigorous pushing and shoving in centre field and while the Broncos remain the benchmark in the NRL the Titans showed enough to suggest they won't be their whipping boys any more.
Mixed night for Roberts on return
He was the game's primary talking point from the moment he left the field after a breakout Broncos game against the Cowboys and former Titan James Roberts seemed to revel in being the centre of attention. With the Broncos playmakers getting the ball in his hands as often as possible in the opening exchanges Roberts took just three minutes before crossing wide out, a grin sneaking across his face before the ball touched the ground. When it did, he signalled for the fans who had cheered his every touch last year to keep any noise to themselves.
Twelve minutes in he blasted through a gaping hole between Agnatius Paasi and Luke Douglas but his pass inside to Anthony Milford went to ground, although the crowd did get to find their voice when he dropped the ball in a heavy tackle from Greg Bird and John Olive.
Even when he didn't get the ball he was worrying the Titans defenders, holding the defence out for Ben Hunt's try in the 25th minute but his influence was diminished somewhat when he copped a knock to his hip in trying to prevent David Mead's first-half try.
As hard as it will be for Neil Henry it reiterated again that Gold Coast's loss is very much the Broncos' gain.
Darius Boyd deserves shot at Queensland jersey
Queensland coach Kevin Walters confided to Paul Vautin pre-game that he remains undecided about who will wear the Maroons' No.1 jersey in Origin I but over the course of 80 minutes Darius Boyd displayed why he deserves his shot. Kept to the confines of the wing for each of his 23 Origin matches to date, Boyd was superb again for the Broncos and brings stability and style to any team that he plays in. His Achilles injury of 12 months ago is now well and truly behind him with his carries into the defence full of energy and purpose. His linking with his halves and outside men in attack is seamless and his pass for Jordan Kahu's try early in the second half was all class. He is a vastly different custodian than incumbent Greg Inglis but he is playing too well at the moment or his talents to be wasted on the wing.
Slow starts come back to haunt Titans
They spoke all week about the importance of starting well but the Titans' hopes of achieving just that hit a significant snag before they even had a chance to take the field. Prop forward David Shillington suffered a hip flexor injury during the warm-up and with a reshuffled line-up that saw Greg Bird start at five-eighth and centres Josh Hoffman and John Olive swap sides of the field things got worse before they got better. Winger Nene Macdonald was tackled in-goal with the Titans' first touch of the ball and from the ensuing set of six former Gold Coaster James Roberts flashed across to personally silence the big crowd on hand.
It was 10-0 to the Broncos after 25 minutes but like they did in previous weeks against the Storm, Tigers and Raiders the home side fought their way back into the contest – but good teams rarely let you all the way back. The Broncos shut the door on them with a try five minutes into the second half and as gallant as the Titans were to get back within six points they never truly threatened to wrest away control from big brother.
Mead makes irrefutable case to be No.1
He wasn't one of the Titans' top two options to play fullback in the pre-season but David Mead presented another convincing case for a permanent position in the No.1 jersey with a whole-hearted performance against the Broncos. He produced an impossible stop on a rampaging Corey Oates when the Broncos were on the charge early, he jolted the ball free from Jordan Kahu close to the line, ran powerfully into the heart of the Broncos defence and was rewarded for his complete commitment to the ball with his team's first try six minutes from half-time. William Zillman is from all reports fit to return but Mead has earned the right to hold onto his spot regardless.