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Veteran Titans winger Anthony Don.

Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook was able to pinpoint just how far the club has come after their gritty 18-12 loss to Sydney Roosters by recalling how he had watched the back-to-back premiers humble the Titans 58-6 almost a year earlier.

Holbrook, who was in charge of St Helens, had just been announced as the new Gold Coast coach days earlier and the team’s first match after his appointment was against the Roosters on August 4 at the SCG.

It was a 10-try demolition but 12 months later at the same venue Holbrook oversaw a narrow loss in which both teams scored two tries but the Roosters triumphed through the goal-kicking of rookie halfback Kyle Flanagan.

“We have come a really long way,” Holbrook said. “I was sitting in England this time last year watching and the Roosters blow us off the park. I remember watching that game and I was just thinking about it then.

“We are still short of quality oppositions like we played today but not by a lot, so it is really encouraging. We want to get better every week and we have been doing that the last couple of weeks.”

The loss followed last weekend’s 22-14 defeat by competition leaders Penrith, who led 16-14 at halftime and scored just one second half try.

Match Highlights: Roosters v Titans

Against the Roosters, the Titans had to play for 20 minutes with 12 players after centre Brian Kelly and second-rower Keegan Hipgrave spent stints in the sin-bin for professional fouls.

Holbrook had no issue with Hipgrave’s dismissal but questioned whether Kelly deserved to be sin-binned and was also unhappy that Roosters fullback James Tedesco escaped the same punishment after holding back AJ Brimson before winger Anthony Don scored the opening try.

“It is interesting ruling that because we scored it is not a sin bin, but it is still a professional foul,” Holbrook said. “It’s the same thing. It would have been handy not having him on for 10 minutes, that’s for sure.

“We were down to 12 men twice and just to hang in there like we did I thought it was great. I thought we had enough chances in the first half, we just couldn’t get the try. Phil Sami was held up, AJ dropped it over the line and then we were peppering their line just before halftime.

“I thought we were the better side in the first half, but we were down 10-6 and then we didn’t get many chances in the second half.

Don scores the first try of the match

“We are making heaps of inroads, even early on we were unlucky not to score another try [after halfback Jamal Fogarty was denied by the Bunker]. I just think we created enough but we just weren’t good enough to finish it. Had we done that we might have got the result.”

Roosters coach Trent Robinson praised Holbrook for the improvement in the Titans, who last weekend signed Brisbane star David Fifita and also have Storm prop Tino Fa’asuameleaui joining the club in 2021.

Sami try gives the Titans some hope

“I think Justin and the crew up there are doing a really good job,” Robinson said. “He is a guy who has coached a lot of teams, he has had Under 20s teams and reserve grade teams, he started in coaching in Wollongong [Dapto 2005-2007] and he went to St Helens.

“He is a head coach, he knows how to coach and he knows how to hold a season up. He knows how to form a season and he is doing a really good job.

“You can see that they are a team with lots of young guys and he is getting the best out of them, week on week they are improving so it is a real credit to Justin.”