Titans' turmoil takes toll on 'shattered group'
The expectation after having their coach sacked on Monday was that Titans players would respond in a positive manner but five-eighth Tyrone Roberts admitted the events of the past fortnight have taken their toll on the playing group.
The Titans and Bulldogs both fumbled their way through the opening exchanges of a match with zero finals implications at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday afternoon and you sensed the team that could strike first might strike an important blow.
That was Canterbury in the 14th minute and when they followed with a second five minutes later a sense of defeatism swept across a Gold Coast team that has now slumped to six losses on the trot.
There was a brief fightback with two tries and some spirited charges by most notably Agnatius Paasi but the Titans at no stage looked as though they would string together enough productive passages of play to haul in the 20-point head start the Bulldogs had established.
Roberts scored his side's first try in the 45th minute but admitted that the controversy that had enveloped the club for the past two weeks had made it difficult to prepare mentally for an 80-minute battle.
"I think the last two weeks has been mentally tough," Roberts told NRL.com.
"You don't think about it much but you can't get away from it. It's always there but you've got to stick together and keep turning up for each other.
"We wanted to show the fans that we do care. We wanted to bash them but our execution at the end let us down but the boys competed and that's what we want.
"You can't really ask too much more."
Following the dismissal of Neil Henry on Monday Terry Matterson and Craig Hodges were installed in as co-coaches to oversee the final two games of the season, Matterson admitting that it is a challenge for the players to not be affected by what has transpired off the field.
"It's not easy, there's no doubt about that but they're paid to do that and they're paid to get out there and play footy on the weekend," Matterson said.
"They're a shattered group at the moment. If we could have got some possession it gives us some field position, you give yourself a chance to score some points.
"We were trying to find the easy way out as well. Kicking on early plays when their defence was jamming us and we didn't handle that really well."
For the fifth week in a row the Titans were unable to score a point in the first half, an astonishing statistic for a team that was ranked second for tries scored at the start of Round 20.
They struggled to get out of their half in the first term as the Bulldogs dictated terms with 57 per cent of possession and two of their three tries again came courtesy of the boot of half Ashley Taylor.
Prop forward Jarrod Wallace said it was a failure to execute the game-plan and not any off-field distractions that contributed to the team's 16th loss of the season.
"The boys have really stuck together well which helps mentally," Wallace said.
"It is our job and no matter who is there leading us we still had to do our job and unfortunately we just didn't do it. That's why we didn't come out with the win."