Injury-ravaged Titans outlast Eels
The Titans have defied an injury crisis that worsened over the course of 80 minutes to register their first win of the season against an error-riddled Parramatta outfit at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday night.
The Eels raced out to a 12-0 lead inside 17 minutes to leave the home fans shell-shocked but despite players going down left, right and centre Gold Coast fought their way back into the contest to draw level with the final play of the first half before going on to win 26-14 in front of 11,612 fans.
Titans winger William Zillman left the field in the 17th minute with a calf injury and was unable to return and when Konrad Hurrell was forced from the field to have a concussion test six minutes from half-time the Titans had Chris McQueen and Kevin Proctor playing in the centres.
Tyrone Roberts struggled on with a hamstring complaint, Ryan Simpkins and Ryan James both went for concussion tests, Englishman Joe Greenwood flat-out refused to leave the field and Ash Taylor and Kane Elgey both went down after heavy hits and yet the most inexperienced team in the Titans' 10-year history recorded one of the club's most courageous wins.
The Eels weren't without their own injury issues with hooker Kaysa Pritchard suffering an ankle injury in the 62nd minute that prevented him taking any further part in the game but the biggest headache for coach Brad Arthur was a complete disregard for possession in the second stanza.
Semi Radradra twice spilt the Steeden on the first tackle inside Parramatta's 10-metre line and with a second-half completion rate of 67 per cent the Eels repeatedly invited the bashed-up Titans to attack their line.
A penalty goal to Clint Gutherson three minutes into the second half saw the visitors edge ahead 14-12 but it was one of the last times they entered Titans territory with any purpose.
When Josh Hoffman was unable to reign in a loose ball the Titans constructed a set that finished with a Taylor grubber ricocheting into the path of Elgey who toed it through to score and hit the front, and when Taylor added a penalty goal and Tyrone Roberts snared a tap-back from Joe Greenwood after a Taylor cross-field kick the Titans had extended their lead to 26-14 seven minutes from full-time.
The Eels started the game showing no signs of missing halfback Corey Norman, crossing first in the eighth minute when Gutherson backed up to receive an offload from Beau Scott to score under the posts and then a beautiful set piece seven minutes later opened the way for Jeff Robson to extend the lead.
Shortly after the Eels' second try William Zillman left the field with a recurrence of his calf injury and when Konrad Hurrell was rocked by a massive Nathan Brown hit in the 34th minute the reserves bench was again looking bereft of back-up.
The Titans threw the ball around with abandon as they searched desperately for their first points of the game but it took the simplest move that there is – a barge over from dummy-half by Chris McQueen – to register their first points after 27 minutes.
The Eels looked as though they would take a six-point lead into the break before lock forward Tepai Moeroa was penalised for a late hit after a kick by Ash Taylor and with 90 seconds left in the half the Titans struck again when a shift wide to the left found Kane Elgey in space who somewhat fortunately snuck his pass past Eels winger Josh Hoffman for Cornish to score in the corner.
Gold Coast Titans 26 (Chris McQueen, Tyler Cornish, Kane Elgey, Tyrone Roberts tries; Ashley Taylor 5 goals) def. Parramatta Eels 14 (Clint Gutherson, Jeff Robson tries; Gutherson 3 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium. Half-time: 12-all. Crowd: 11,612. Holden Cup: Eels 36-28.