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The moment Titans' season spiralled out of control

Brian Kelly describes it as a slow release that began with a Mahe Fonua try in Tamworth.

The Titans of 2019 have just five weeks to avoid the infamy of being the worst-performed team in club history and a second wooden spoon, starting with the first of two games against the Dragons on Saturday afternoon at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.

A sixth straight loss would almost certainly seal their fate at the foot of the Telstra Premiership ladder but a win will set up a final round rematch that will be of interest for all the wrong reasons.

Four wins from their first 16 games cost coach Garth Brennan his job with more than 12 months still left on his contract and last Sunday's meek capitulation at the hands of the Roosters ranks as one of the most insipid losses in club history.

Yet it could have been very different.

Touted as genuine top-eight contenders in pre-season, the Titans trotted out three different halves combinations in the first four weeks before they began to show signs of life.

Dragons v Titans - Round 21

With Ash Taylor and Tyrone Roberts reunited they defeated fellow pre-season fancies Penrith and Newcastle in successive weeks and travelled to Tamworth to face a Wests Tigers team reeling from a 51-6 thumping by the Eels on opening day at Bankwest Stadium.

With confidence building, the Titans knew a strong start would be vital at Scully Park and could not have concocted a better script for the first 20 minutes. Anthony Don and Tyrone Peachey scored tries that contributed to a 14-0 lead.

Then a puncture.

The Fonua try was followed by two more to Robert Jennings and Esan Marsters and by the time Brennan could speak to them, the Titans trailed 16-14.

Mahe Fonua scores against the Titans in Tamworth.
Mahe Fonua scores against the Titans in Tamworth. ©Shane Myers/NRL Photos

They lost that game 30-14. Two weeks later an 18-10 half-time lead against an under-manned Sharks turned into a 26-18 defeat. Nine days later they scored 16 points in the first 17 minutes yet fell to the struggling Bulldogs 22-16.

Physically fit yet not battle-hardened, those three cumulative losses were the equivalent of death by a thousand cuts and sent the confidence and belief within Titans players into a downward spiral from which they yet to emerge.

"The one for me was Tamworth," says Kelly.

"That was the one that got me. We kicked out to 14-0 after two wins. Three in a row is an awesome feeling and builds your season.

"I felt like the second half of that Tigers game we dropped off and it was like after that we couldn't get it back.

"We were up in all of those three games by two tries and all we had to do was close out that second half.

"It's like there's a leak that's slowly draining you.

Match Highlights: Wests Tigers v Titans

"Each week you put in at training and losing in the back-end of games just slowly takes it out of you.

"We weren't far away but those close losses were just slowly draining us.

"After those three or four games it was like there was a realisation of, 'Shit, we're not there'."

Whether a factor in the fade-outs or a contributor to his troubles, Taylor has rarely looked the player many know he can be since.

A shock 36-18 win over the Sea Eagles at Lottoland provided a glimmer of hope yet when he turned down a shot at penalty goal late against the Cowboys a week later there was a chain reaction that saw him walk away from the game to address personal issues.

If he closes out those three games in the space of four weeks as befitting an elite NRL No.7 does Taylor's season – and that of the Titans – look very different?

We dropped off and it was like after that we couldn't get it back

Titans centre Brian Kelly on the start of his team's 2019 woe

Lock forward Jai Arrow, a shining beacon of hope for the future, says the only way to generate good fortune is to work harder than the opposition.

"You take every loss pretty hard in the NRL and we got out to those big leads in those games during the start of the year but we've got to put our hands up and start playing full 80-minute games,” said Arrow.

"Not just a 15, 20-minute game. We got out to a big lead and then took the foot off the throttle and let teams roll us.

"We're a professional team, we get paid to play footy so it's time for us to stand up and make sure we're putting in 80-minute performances.

"The bounce of the ball seems to be going the other team's way at the moment with everything but we've got to make our own luck.

"I'm a big believer of that. If you're working hard luck will come to you so hopefully, we can do that this week and the bounce of the ball goes our way."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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