Titans in line for another spoon after Dragons loss
The Gold Coast Titans are staring down the barrel of another wooden spoon after falling 20-8 to St George Illawarra as the lifting of Queensland's crowd ban ended in an anti-climax.
The 1930 that braved drizzly conditions at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday afternoon to become the first spectators to attend a game in Queensland since COVID restrictions began may have been wishing they stayed at home.
The Titans were decimated by injuries in the 12-point defeat, with fullback Corey Thompson (concussion/jaw), winger Phillip Sami (hamstring) and centre Young Tonumaipea (knee) failing to finish the game.
"It was tough, we were never good enough," said Titans coach Justin Holbrook.
"We did well to keep the score to what it was in the end. It flattered us if you didn't watch the game, we were holding on the whole game.
"We lost three backs in the game which makes it very hard. We were in all sorts. It was too hard to get back in the game with all of those injuries.
"We did a good job to keep them to what we did in the end. I thought we held on really well, but when you're trying to chase points and have blokes playing everywhere it makes it hard."
Despite the injuries, the Gold Coast was once again poor against a team whose coach Paul McGregor was on the brink of being sacked a fortnight ago because of their horrendous performances.
The Dragons are no world beaters but they comfortably outpointed the Titans to register back-to-back wins and give McGregor some breathing room in what was potentially prop James Graham's final NRL game.
The Gold Coast's derby against the Broncos at Suncorp next Saturday will now be a battle between two bottom four teams after the Dragons edged ahead of Brisbane on the ladder.
A contest featuring two clubs firmly entrenched in the NRL's cellar was never going to be an entertainer's delight.
But the Titans' ineptitude did little to excite their loyal members who made the one-hour trip up the M1, only to leave bitterly disappointed as the Gold Coast slumped to their fifth loss in six games.
The Titans are one of three teams to have only posted one win in 2020, with the Sharks and Bulldogs to face each other on Sunday.
If Titans bosses were looking for a spike in performance by sacking coach Garth Brennan last year and appointing Holbrook they are yet to find it, although injuries did not help their cause.
The Titans got on the scoreboard before their opponents for the first time in nearly a year when Ash Taylor kicked a penalty goal in the third minute but their joy was short-lived.
Taylor's poor kicking resulted in three seven-tackle sets for the Dragons in the opening 15 minutes and they pounced when Zac Lomax strolled through a gaping hole in the Gold Coast's defence.
The loss of Thompson in the 24th minute from a Jordan Pereira high tackle forced the Titans into a reshuffle and Dragons winger Mikaele Ravalawa hurt them again on the scoreboard as St George Illawarra took a 14-2 lead into the break.
Pereira extended the Dragons' lead early in the second half and the Titans' bumbling attack rarely looked like hurting St George Illawarra until Tanah Boyd scored a consolation try in the 77th minute.
The match was potentially the final in the NRL for Graham, who will return to the Super League in the coming weeks.
"I'm genuinely unsure what's happening just yet," Graham said.
"The situation is pretty clear but we'll see what's happening in the next days and weeks.
"It was a bit weird it's potentially my last game over here. I just wanted to get the win for the team.
"My intention is to go to England and play out the season in the Super League. I've sort of made Australia home so it'll be pretty hard not to come back."
5 THINGS WE LEARNED
1. The Titans have few talented players but it's their inability to execute the fundamentals of the game that hurt them the most. The Gold Coast has little defensive structure or resilience and make too many errors with the ball.
2. Titans coach Justin Holbrook has to find a way to get value out of ex-Origin players Nathan Peats and Jarrod Wallace. Peats and Wallace were once decent players and it makes no sense to have $1.3 million of your salary cap sitting out because they aren't in good form.
3. Titans playmaker Ash Taylor's kicking game is too inconsistent. Taylor had some moments of brilliance but gave up three seven-tackle sets in opening 15 minutes. He looked for a cheap 40-20 when the Titans were under pressure and kicked out on the full.
4. Dragons fullback Matt Dufty was sensational after being involved in a war of words during the week. Holbrook claimed he never wanted to sign Dufty, instead opting to bring Corey Thompson to the club. Dufty responded with a cracking performance in tough conditions for a fullback.
5. Dragons forward James Graham can leave the NRL with his head held high if that was his last game. Graham is past his best but toiled hard to help the Dragons claim back-to-back wins before he returns to the Super League. "My intention is to go to England and play out the season in the Super League. I've sort of made Australia home so it'll be pretty hard not to come back," Graham said.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 20 (Z Lomax J Pereira M Ravalawa tries Z Lomax 4 goals) bt GOLD COAST 8 (T Boyd try A Taylor 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Chris Sutton.
Originally published as Titans in line for another spoon after Dragons loss