The Titans came away with a historic win over the Broncos at Suncorp on Saturday night, leading to a big Brisbane reconfiguration over the following week that saw Corey Oates left out of the starting side. Brian Kelly gave an early hint of their momentum by running over Herbie Farnworth on Gold Coast’s third play, although Xavier Coates withstood a good chase from Kelly to clean up Jamal Fogarty’s first kick and remain in the field of play. Brisbane got the first restart on their next set, and Tevita Pangai Jr. sent a superb offload across to Tesi Niu to break through the line, but the new fullback showed his inexperience, shifting the Steeden out to Farnworth to be cleaned up in the corner instead of backing himself to double-pump and across over. Brodie Croft tried to steady the ship with a wide pass to the right edge on the last play, but he threw it too hard for Coates to clean up, and so Gold Coast survived the first big push from Brisbane, consolidating further when Dale Copley, Anthony Don and Keegan Hipgrave dragged Oates into touch after he’d collected the high ball at the end of the next set.
It looked quite likely that Oates had passed the ball back inside to Darius Boyd just in time, but Alex Glenn took too long to decide on a Captain’s Challenge, and so missed the thirty second window, giving the Titans the repeat set that resulted in their first try. Ash Taylor started a massive right sweep on the second play, but Boyd and Glenn cleaned up Fogarty on the wing. Unfazed, Taylor almost put Kelly through the line with a tight pass on the other side of the park, before going it alone on the final play, when he burrowed through the defence out of dummy half, only just getting the footy down as Pangai and Croft tumbled on top of him. He didn’t make the sideline conversion, but this was still a big statement from the Titans, who got a penalty two tackles into the restart after a mild shoulder charge from Payne Haas on Jaimin Jolliffe. Gold Coast looked less organised on this set, with several players searching for options in the middle of the field, many of which revolved around Jai Arrow, but Taylor still secured a dropout at the end of it all, sending a monstrous bounce into the slipperier northern end of Suncorp, where Niu only just managed to contain it before the Titans’ kick chase arrived.Embed from Getty Images
Taylor awkwardly tapped on a Fogarty pass on the next set, but Philip Sami cleaned it up on the left edge, only to fumble the play-the-ball a set later, giving Brisbane a big letoff, and the scrum feed from the twenty. They got six again a tackle later, setting up Anthony Milford for his best run so far – a skittering, searching, crossfield dash that saw him dodge and weave out of several tackles before almost sending Farnworth through the line. Croft’s kick bounced off the defence on the last, and Fogarty scooped it up, but not without knocking in, cementing Brisbane’s first sustained period of field position all night. Copley now stepped up in a big way, making a strong tackle on Liu on the left of the field, before joining Fogarty and Hipgrave for a massive combined tackle that saw Oates lose the footy on play two. Both teams seemed to be going scrum for scrum as Gold Coast now fed the ball twenty metres out, only taking three tackles before Taylor missed a 40/20 by a few centimetres, getting his boot to the red stripe without realising it, in yet another letoff for the Broncos, who nevertheless didn’t do much with their next set, which ended with Don cleaning up a regulation Milford bomb.
Glenn’s subsequent kick chase was considerably stronger than Milford’s kick, and helped to keep the Titans in their own end until the final play, as Hipgrave somehow got away with fumbling the footy not once but twice at the start of the tackle count. Fogarty bombed again at the end, and the bounce defied the Brisbane defenders, but Niu now made his first really visionary gesture from fullback, cleaning up the Steeden in front of the posts to get the Broncos rolling down the field again. Despite a strong opening stint from Gold Coast, the game was starting to sink into a slog, so it was a big boost for the Titans when Hipgrave made twenty metres on the next set, and then garnered a penalty from Joe Ofahengaue for lying in the ruck. Hipgrave took another massive carry on the right edge on the restart, and the Titans ended up in the same spot a few tackles later, after a Kelly offload set up Corey Thompson to skitter across the ruck, and commence a right sweep that initially seemed to end with a tap-on from Fogarty to Don. Brisbane were convinced, and Milford actually turned away from the contest to the referee, but Don never gave up on the play, strolling over the line for what was eventually deemed a try when the tap-on was given the all clear.Embed from Getty Images
In slow motion, it did indeed seem like the ball had left Fogarty’s hand flat and headed backwards, but in any case, the call was try, putting Gold Coast ten points ahead when Taylor added his first conversion. Things got worse for Brisbane when they wasted their Captain’s Challenge trying to dispute a call of knock-on from Boyd during a contest with Kevin Proctor beneath an Ash Taylor bomb. From one angle, the Challenge seemed to ratify Brisbane, showing Proctor making contact with Boyd below him, but from the opposite angle it was just as clear that Darius, while lower, had reached up a hand to tap the Steeden into the big second-rower’s chest. To rub salt in the wound, the Titans got their next try off a contested high ball a few minutes later, when Niu lost the footy, and Peachey scooped it up, fending off Luke and offloading on the ground for Sam Lisone to barge through Oates to score beneath the crossbar, rolling through the Brisbane winger a mere three minutes after trotting onto the field. The initial ruling was no try, but the replay showed that Niu had knocked the ball back without it touching Kelly or Proctor, putting Gold Coast sixteen ahead when Taylor made the kick.
Thompson ended the next set with a brilliant grubber along the ground, trapping Oates in goal for a double restart, but from here the Titans waned until the last fifteen seconds of the first stanza, starting with Don collecting a Fogarty kick and putting a boot back on the sideline to steady himself while still in possession of the footy. A minute later, Luke made his first big statement of the night with a superb one-on-one strip on Thompson on play one, while Brisbane got another boost when Moeaki Fotuaika took out his team’s frustration by holding down Matt Lodge a little too long in front of the posts, getting dealt a professional foul and ten in the bin for a pretty mild play. Lodge took another tackle in front of the posts a set later, and Farnworth followed by losing the footy, but Brisbane got a further advantage when Peachey was pinged for a scrum infringement after Fogarty sent the Steeden over the sideline at the end of their next set. Yet with only fifteen seconds left, Don intercepted a pass from Niu, jogged down the sideline, and capped off one of the greatest passages of Gold Coast football in the last five years – twenty-two unanswered points against Brisbane once Taylor booted through a post-siren conversion.Embed from Getty Images
The Broncos hadn’t scored in the second half of a match since Round 2, so they were pretty glum when they returned from the sheds, especially when Milford kicked off the back forty with a mistake five minutes in. Yet Brisbane steadily accumulated field position from here, thanks to back-to-back calls of six again, and then a pair of penalties from Fogarty and Taylor, for working on the line and being offside respectively. Taking the game into his own hands, Ben Te’o ended this sudden surge of possession by collecting the footy from Luke and taking on the line at close ranging, showcasing a remarkable combination of strength and footwork to swivel away from Jarrod Wallace and force Mitch Rein to come in from a low tackle that was never going to prevent him crashing over beneath the uprights with Peachey on his back. It was a terrific way for Te’o to mark his return to the NRL, although Niu continued to have a rough night a set later, when he failed to secure a Taylor bomb, and tried to pull out from the play, only for the footy to ricochet off his right arm, remaining open for Taylor to kick it to the left edge, where Sami was bumped into touch just before he could score another try.
Thompson made his best run all night on the restart, skidding and sliding across the face of the ruck, before Milford stripped the footy from Hipgrave and sent it across to Glenn, only for the refs to blow the whistle, deeming there were more than two Broncos in the tackle. Boyd and Glenn didn’t like the call – and they were right to question it, since the replay showed Milford seizing the footy right before Haas came in on the play – but they’d already used up their Captain’s Challenge, meaning Taylor could boot through the first penalty kick of the night with impunity, bringing his men to quadruple Brisbane at 6-24. Boyd and Glenn took out their frustration with a bone-rattling tackle on Jolliffe on the Titans’ first run off the restart – the biggest hit all night – but a tap-back from Taylor once again forced Niu to scramble for the football at the end of it all. Luckily for the incumbent fullback, Oates got a hand to Kelly’s second kick, since without the deflection the footy would have sailed to the right corner for a near-certain Gold Coast try. With this chance gone begging, another pair of Titans errors paved the way for the next and last Brisbane try – Wallace, for lying in the ruck, and Kelly, for an illegal strip on Ofahengaue.Embed from Getty Images
The Titans now used up their Captain’s Challenge trying to contest the ruling, but the very first replay confirmed what was already obvious in real time, as Brisbane took advantage of the breathing-space to craft their next move – a strong platform of carries from Haas and Pangai, before Coates collected a harbor bridge pass on the right wing, and did well to stay in the field of play to shift it back to his halfback in turn. For a moment, Croft hesitated in the middle of the field, but Haas got things rolling again with a hard run and offload to Luke that further exhausted the Gold Coast forwards. Finally, it all came together when Croft grubbered on the last, and Farnworth responded with the kick chase of the night, outpacing Kelly and Sami to slam the Steeden down in the right wing and narrow the deficit from quadruple to double after converting his own try a minute later. The Broncos were well positioned now for a comeback – two converted tries in twenty minutes wasn’t a lot to ask – but they lost all their momentum when Croft booted the next kick over the sideline on the full, before a dangerous tackle from Ofahengaue set up Taylor to slot through the second and last penalty kick of the game.
Sami got the Titans rolling again with a superb two-handed catch in the air twelve minutes out from the siren, soaring above Coates like Lance Franklin, so it was a comedown when Tanah Boyd kicked out on the full at the end of the set. Brisbane got six again on the restart, and chose to tap and go when Wallace conceded an offside penalty in front of the posts. For a moment, it seemed to have paid dividends, as Tom Dearden popped a parabolic pass out to Coates to crash over on the wing, but the try was denied due to an obstruction from Pangai, costing Brisbane the four or six points that might have just got them back in the game. Conversely, the Titans went from saving a try – or perhaps more accurately, surviving a try – to scoring a try, although not without a pair of errors from Arrow and Don that initially seemed set to swing the pendulum back in Brisbane’s direction. First, Arrow lost the footy to a one-on-one from Haas, and then coughed up a Milford bomb in the face of an enormous kick chase from Oates, who was clearly determined to compensate for a pretty uncharacteristic first forty of football. Yet Oates’ frustration finally got the better him, resulting in the verbal dissent that set up Gold Coast for their final try.Embed from Getty Images
The dissent came on the back of the Broncos’ most exhausted defensive set of the night, and was so sharp in challenging the refs for their supposed oblivion to a high shot that the big winger was sent to the bin, against the run of play, when his men had ball in hand. Such a dearth of leadership from a senior Brisbane player empowered to tap and go instead of taking a penalty kick, and they moved the Steeden through big runs from Proctor and Lisone before a cut-out pass from Taylor sent Sami over in the left corner for the nearest try of the night. Taylor’s conversion made it thirty, and so Gold Coast came away with a historic win over their local rivals – big enough that they might just have a shot at taking on a Cronulla outfit resplendent from their win over the Sea Eagles on Sunday afternoon. On the other side of the Steeden, this was possibly the most dispiriting loss of the season for Brisbane, who were booed for the first time in history at a home fixture at Suncorp, so they’ll be looking to reconfigure radically to take advantage of New Zealand’s 50-6 loss to Melbourne when they rock up at Central Coast Stadium next Saturday evening.