|Match Date||18th Jun, 2010|
|Opponent||Gold Coast Titans|
|Venue||Brisbane (Suncorp Stadium)|
Tony De Las Heras
Gold Coast Titans moved into third position on the NRL premiership table after edging out the Bulldogs 25-24 in the second match of a double-header at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
But the victory, which lifted the Titans above Wests Tigers, was tinged with concern over the future availability of inspirational halfback Scott Prince, who suffered a hamstring injury midway through the first half when his side led 16-6.
In Prince's absence, others lifted. Hooker Nathan Friend darted out of dummy half to provide momentum, second-rowers Mark Minichiello and Anthony Laffranchi were outstanding, Mat Rogers and Greg Bird provided backline direction and wing Kevin Gordon was a constant menace with his pace.
But the Titans clearly had less imagination and fewer options on their last-tackle plays and cannot afford to have Prince sidelined for too long.
The 13th-placed Bulldogs have even more reasons to worry. They were flat on attack and poor on defence in the early stages of both halves and were never in contention until 20-year-old inside back Ben Barba was called off the interchange bench in the second half.
Barba scored two tries himself and laid on another for Jamal Idris. But the match was not as close as the final scoreline indicated. The Titans led by seven points into the final minute, when Barba claimed his second try.
The Titans made three late changes because of injuries. As expected, forwards Luke Bailey and Ashley Harrison were withdrawals, being replaced by Matt White and Bodene Thompson at prop and lock, respectively.
Livewire fullback Preston Campbell (heel) was also a casualty, his place being taken by William Zillman. Forward Aaron Cannings was added to the bench.
The only variation to the Bulldogs' announced line-up was Barba displacing Yileen Gordon on the interchange.
But the Titans were unfazed by the disrupted preparation and started much the more confident side to claim two tries in the first 11 minutes.
Kevin Gordon yet again illustrated his blazing speed on the left wing, dashing 83 metres for the first try after Bulldogs centre Idris had dropped the ball. Prince kicked the conversion.
Before the Bulldogs could settle down the Titans were in again. Prince ran on the last tackle and Mat Rogers slipped an inside pass to Minichiello, who had enough steam up to break through a faltering Bulldogs defence.
But prolific scoring Bulldogs centre Josh Morris temporarily turned the tide. From a standing start, he fended off Sam Tagataese and surged between two other opponents for the try which, with Bryson Goodwin's conversion, made it 10-6 after 16 minutes.
The Titans replied with another long-range try. This time it was Zillman who got clear from inside his own territory, turning rival fullback Luke Patten inside out and then outpacing him to the try-line. Prince's conversion extended the scoreline to 16-6 midway through the first spell.
But the Titans suffered a serious blow soon afterwards when captain, goalkicker and chief playmaker Prince was forced from the field with a torn hamstring.
Rogers took over the kicking duties, landing a penalty from close range to push the lead out to 12 points.
Minichiello, who made the initial break in midfield, and Laffranchi, who broke past several weak tackles to score, joined forces to give the Titans a perfect resumption after halftime. Rogers converted for 24-6 after 43 minutes.
Barba was sent into action and immediately injected some bite into the Bulldogs' attack. After almost breaking clear on several occasions, he scored from a Michael Ennis grubber to the in-goal area. Goodwin converted to make it 24-12.
Within two minutes Barba had broken through out wide, turned the cover defence into tatters and laid on a try for Idris. Suddenly it was 24-18 and the Bulldogs were within range.
The Bulldogs were dominating possession and position, while the Titans were quickly losing any flair and falling increasingly into error. A relieving gave the Titans a rare visit into Bulldogs territory and, after Rogers had been rushed and forced to submit to a tackle, Bird kicked the match-clinching field goal in the 74th minute.
Barba was not finished, however, He backed up a big Idris break to score his second try. Goodwin converted but there were only 20 seconds left when the Titans kicked off. Time enough for one last attack, and a thrilling kick and chase, but Cannings got back to snuff out the threat.
|Blake Green||Five Eighth||0||0||0||0|
|Brett Kimmorley||Half Back||0||0||0||0|
|Andrew Ryan||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Gary Warburton||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Michael Hodgson||Front Row||0||0||0||0|
|Ben Hannant||Front Row||0||0||0||0|