ROUND 18: Gold Coast Titans v. Brisbane Broncos (Cbus Super Stadium, 12/9/20)
It was 13th against 15th when the Titans hosted Brisbane on Saturday afternoon, with both teams completing pretty smoothly until Alex Glenn was pinged for an accidental offside two and a half minutes in. The big men laid the platform on the next two plays before the Titans headed left, where Corey Thompson did well to stay in field, allowing Jarrod Wallace to straighten the attack on the fourth. Gold Coast now headed right, and Corey Oates slammed into AJ Brimson, knocking the footy loose and leaving it wide open for Herbie Farnworth to kick it forward, and then get his boot to it for a second time, only for the play to be called back for a Brisbane scrum feed.
The visitors got their first penalty off a dangerous tackle from Mitch Rein, as Patrick Carrigan, Payne Haas and Rhys Kennedy contributed a big trio of runs, before Brisbane got a lucky bounce of a last play kick from Sean O’Sullivan. Jamal Fogarty slammed in to contain it, but instead did more damage than good, getting a fingertip and then a boot to the footy to deflect its trajectory towards Darius Boyd, who stormed in at just the right angle to score the first try of the night, putting Brisbane six ahead once Kotoni Staggs added the extras.
Brisbane hadn’t lost at Cbus since 2014, and their three wins in 2020 had all come after scoring the first try, so it was paramount that they build on this momentum immediately. Instead, they didn’t do much with the restart, apart from simply getting through a decent set, which ended with Brimson collecting a Tom Dearden bomb without too much effort.
A Kennedy effort midway through the next set provided Gold Coast with the first restart, and a knock-on from Issac Luke on the line gifted them another fresh burst of field position. The Titans opted for a rapid right side play out of the scrum, and while the Broncos contained it, Farnworth conceded another restart in the process. All Rein needed was a single tackle to cap off a tough ten minutes by collecting the footy out of dummy half, and then burrowing his way through Luke and O’Sullivan to score the next four points.
This was just what Gold Coast needed – proof they could capitalise clinically on attacking position – effectively resetting the game after Ash Taylor converted from right in front. They got their next chance a few minutes later, when Treymain Spry bundled Oates into touch, coming up with a near-try following a contest in the air between Boyd and Don for a Fogarty bomb that would have been a try for the cult winger if he hadn’t knocked it into Darius first.
Oates took the first hit-up on the next set, digging deep into the second-rower mentality he’s striven to cultivate over the last few years, laying the groundwork for a muscular set up the middle that ended with the biggest bomb so far from Dearden – so soaring that Thompson had to sink to his knees to collect it. Both teams were now opting for bigger and more daring plays, so something had to give as the second quarter approached. Spry showed he could bomb just as confidently as the main kickers, while Staggs almost broke through the line with his first run eighteen minutes in.
David Fifita delivered the best offload of the game on the next play, getting the footy away with three Titans wrapped around him, before Brimson mirrored Thompson by going low for another terrific take. Finally, a big kick paid dividends, as Oates knocked on a Fogarty bomb in Gold Coast’s right corner. Moeaki Fotuaika was unable to clean it up, but the Titans still got the scrum at the ten, shifting quickly to the left, where Taylor almost broke through the line, Young Tonumaipea earned another restart, and Thompson was wrapped up on the edge by Staggs and Richie Kennar.
Once more Wallace straightened the play, but this time the Titans stayed left, as Tyrone Peachey danced across the face of the ruck, before Staggs jolted the Steeden loose to prevent Gold Coast getting to their kick. This was a step backwards for Gold Coast, but they got a huge boost when Jai Arrow came off the bench, and made an immediate impact with big metres up the middle that set the scene for Beau Fermor to break through the left.
He probably would have scored if not for a Boyd trysaver, but even then the Titans had built up enough speed to score at the end of this set, when Oates reached up to collect a Fogarty bomb in goal, but instead tapped it back with his right hand, as Sam Stone curved around to scoop it into his chest and then slam it down right on the dead ball line. Brisbane wouldn’t get their next chance until a high shot from Spry on Carrigan six minutes out from the siren, but it ended with their own almost-try as Fifita tucked the footy under his right arm and crashed over the line on the right edge.
This should have been a certain try, so it was spectacular to see Thompson slide in at the last moment to bobble the ball out of Fifita’s grip, giving the Titans the upper hand for the last few minutes before the break. They glimpsed a try with two big plays as the sheds approached – a linebreak from Don down the right side, and then a fast-paced conclusion to their final set, which moved through a Fogarty kick, an error from Carrigan, and then a second Fogarty kick that Kennar and Don converged upon in goal.
Kennar only just managed to flick it on, and the big no. 2 couldn’t do any more, popping it back over the dead ball line as the first forty came to an end. The second half started like the first, with about two and a half minutes of set-for-sets, although this time the disruption didn’t come with an error, but with the Titans’ best team try of the year. The play started right on the Gold Coast line, where Rein sent a wide ball to Taylor, who dashed up the middle and popped it across for Arrow to break through the middle and feed it back inside for Don.
From there, Don got around Staggs and lobbed a one-handed ball out to Thompson, who sent it on for Tonumaipea to cross over untouched on the left edge. Poor defensive reads from Fifita and Dearden made this sequence even silkier, and Rein was just as good on the restart, poking his nose through the line on the second, before Fifita and Dearden got some joy by forcing an error from Jai Whitbread on the very next play.
The Titans resumed their rhythm pretty quickly though, thanks to a Xavier Coates knock-on into Don beneath the next O’Sullivan kick, and then a dangerous tackle from Oates on Spry two tackles later. This was a good chance for Gold Coast to make good on their restart, so it was disappointing when Thompson put down a trick pass after Taylor glimpsed a space in the line. Weirdly, Don let Dearden’s next bomb fall into Farnworth’s hands, actually pulling back from the play as the footy tumbled over Fogarty and the Broncos got six again.
Still, he must have intuited how this sequence would turned out, since he recovered the ball a play later to get Gold Coast rolling down the field again. Brisbane effectively had a twelve-man opposition when Sam Lisone went down in backplay, and then got to his feet dazed and confused, but they couldn’t build on this brief period of Gold Coast vulnerability. Just when O’Sullivan seemed set for a left sweep out to Coates or Farnworth, the footy ricocheted off Oates’ head and into touch for yet another frustrating finish.
A minute later Lisone was off the park for an HIA, replaced by Fotuiaka, meaning Gold Coast had full manpower when the Broncos got a late restart fifteen minutes in. Staggs contributed some amazing footwork on the third, and yet this marked the start of a messy period for both teams, as he lost the ball as the Titans stormed in to defend him, and Gold Coast then faltered on the next set when Taylor booted the footy out on the full.
Dearden opted to kick on the third, and while the chase was good Brimson still managed to elude a dropout, bringing the ball back for Don, only for Wallace to lose it again on the first play. The Titans wisely chose to refrain from a Captain’s Challenge here, as Brisbane settled into their best chance all night. It was critical that the Broncos dig deep to find something special here, so Fifita got them rolling with a massive crossfield run on the first tackle.
From there, Joe Ofahengaue straightened the play, Ben Te’o took a shot at the line, and Staggs collected a bouncing ball that Thompson kicked out his grasp just as quickly. Kotoni took out his irritation with a dangerous tackle that got Gold Coast back to the Brisbane forty, but the next two big attacking sequences were all Broncos, who came up with a pair of almost-tries that ratcheted up the tension as the final quarter ticked down. The first came with an average set that ended with the best take under the high ball night – a soaring leap from Staggs, who caught an equally soaring O’Sullivan bomb on the full and then crashed to ground in the same motion.
Cometh the hour, cometh the men, however, since this play prompted the best defence of the night in turn – a mammoth effort from Brimson and Tonumaipea to hold up Staggs and prevent him scoring what initially seemed like a certain try. The next near thing was also a short-range effort, as Boyd broke through two tackles and almost crashed over the line, opening up space for Corey Paix to dart over out of dummy half.
Paix claimed the four points, but the replay showed he’d lost the Steeden into the best clutch tackle all night from Fotuaika and Taylor. These two defensive efforts were as good as tries for Gold Coast, strengthening their resolve over the last ten minutes as they repelled every attacking combination that Brisbane could muster, culminating with a superb one-one-one tackle from Arrow on Kennedy five minutes out. The Titans followed with a successful Captain’s Challenge to contest a Tonumaipea knock-on, and Brisbane responded with a pair of big harbour bridge balls on their next set, shifting the Steeden from one side to another, until Thompson came up with a heroic one-man effort to dislodge it from Dearden before he could get to the kick.
Yet the Broncos now had their own turn for a successful Captain’s Challenge, rightly claiming that neither Dearden nor O’Sullivan had knocked on in the wake of Thompson’s contact. In another game, this might have been the late advantage the underdogs needed, but Dearden’s next bomb was taken on the full by Brimson right beneath the uprights, perhaps explaining Brisbane’s decision to take another Captain’s Challenge a minute later to reverse a Coates knock-on.
They wanted to say that Gold Coast had knocked on first, but this time they were unsuccessful, as the Titans relaxed into their final set as the final minute wound down. This is the first time in team history that Gold Coast have beaten Brisbane twice in a season – a record that should sustain them when they rock up to face the Sea Eagles at Manly next week – and are now destined to be the best Queensland team in 2020, a brilliant impetus for their 2021 finals push.
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