Whoever coaches Manly next year has to solve the Sea Eagles' bad habit of surrendering healthy leads after another wretched defensive display had the Gold Coast celebrating their eighth win of the year with a 42-34 victory at Lottoland on Friday night.
Manly were ahead 22-6 until the 39th minute. Then the Titans piled on six unanswered tries and memories of the Gold Coast's 36-12 come-from-behind win against the Warriors three weeks ago were fresh in everyone's minds.
It was too much for some Manly members. A congo line of them left the western grandstand after Titans fullback A J Brimson scored his second try – and the Titans seventh for the night – in the 62nd minute.
Sea Eagles head coach Trent Barrett is rumoured to be on the verge of walking out at season's end because of dissatisfaction with facilities and services at the club. He might pack his bags earlier in exasperation and who could blame him?
It was Manly's last home game of the 2018 Telstra Premiership season and it was one of their worst performances. If letting in 32 unanswered points at one stage wasn't bad enough, both Addin Fonua-Blake (dissent) and Dylan Walker (professional foul) were in the sin-bin at the same time late in the second half, reducing the home team to 11 players.
The fact that Jake Trbojevic scored his second try of the game, while they were down two men, is perhaps one of the few bright spots for Barrett from the evening.
Match: Sea Eagles v Titans
Round 23 -
Venue: Lottoland, Sydney
How did it go so bad? How does a team that lead four tries to one a minute shy of half-time, lose seven tries to six?
Ash Taylor was the points machine for the Titans with a try and seven goals.
The Trbojevic brothers scored five tries between them – Tom a hat-trick and Jake his first brace of the year. That combination would be tantalising for any coach to get his hands on, but the leakage of points is a more major concern for Manly coaching staff and club officials.
Perhaps all the talk of Barrett's future has gotten into the heads of the players, along with the fact the club's appeal to the NRL over a $660,000 salary cap sanction still has not been finalised yet.
It seems the Titans are Manly's black cat. When Brennan's men defeated the Sea Eagles in round five 32-20 at the now famous Gladstone match, Manly went on to lose the next four games. Mercifully, there are only two rounds left but Manly is away to the Wests Tigers in Campbelltown and the Broncos in Brisbane.
It was 22-10 at halftime, courtesy of a Brimson try just before the siren. But then came the second-half surge by the Titans to level at 22-22 and they just ran freely from there.
Some damage was done early with Manly putting on four first-half tries. Considering Jake Trbojevic, Frank Winterstein and Brian Kelly were held up over the line, while Joel Thompson was denied with a double movement, Manly could have scored four more and had the game virtually sewn up.
Gold Coast started brightly with Anthony Don taking advantage of a 40/20 by Ash Taylor to score his 15th try of the season, which drew him level with David Mead on 67 tries as the Titans' all-time greatest scorer.
But then it went downhill, and quickly.
The Titans started the second half the same way as the first – scoring early through Taylor after a Kane Elgey break. Suddenly Manly's lead had shrunk to 22-16.
After a Shaun Lane try was called back for a player being offside, Titans left winger Phillip Sami crossed to lock up the scoreboard at 22-22. From there it was a nightmare for the hopeful 6,382 fans that turned up.
News & Notes: Manly finish their season at home with a 4-8 record....Referee Chris Butler left the field in 25th minute with a hamstring injury and didn't return...Titans half Kane Elgey had a good, close look at the team which will be his home next year...Manly forward Shaun Lane returned after an HIA test early in the first half...Bryce Cartwright came on the field in the 72nd minute – his first NRL game since round 12. Next week Manly plays the Tigers away and the Titans are home to Melbourne.
Titans fighting back against Manly