Titans launch epic comeback to topple Broncos at Redcliffe
The Justin Holbrook era at the Titans kicked off in emphatic fashion, as the Gold Coast produced an epic comeback to sink the Broncos 28-22 at Dolphin Stadium.
The Titans fought back from a 16-0 deficit at Redcliffe, scoring 28 unanswered points to shock their Queensland rivals in a performance built on pure enthusiasm.
Watch the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership on KAYO. Every game of every round LIVE & Ad-Break Free during play. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
It may only have been a trial game, but the signs were positive from last year's NRL wooden spoon owners as the Titans overcame a shaky start to finish their pre-season in style.
The Titans lost a trial to the Intrust Super Cup's Burleigh Bears last weekend but had 12 first-choice players on the sidelines, meaning this was Holbrook's first game in charge of his best 17 since taking the coaching reigns from Garth Brennan.
When the Broncos bounced out to a 16-0 lead within 23 minutes on the back of some poor Gold Coast defence it seemed like the scars of 2019 may not have yet healed.
But unlike previous years, the Titans refused to throw in the towel, digging deep in a spirited performance to prove their may yet be light on the Gold Coast.
"I thought we were the better side in the first 10 minutes then we clocked off and before we knew it we were down 16-0," Holbrook said.
"It didn't matter if we won or lost tonight, it was about how we played. It was outstanding to come back from that.
"It was a great effort from the boys to play the way we did and come back. We showed great defence and skill with the ball."
Halfback Ash Taylor played the entire 80 minutes in his first proper hitout since taking a break from the game last year for personal reasons.
English international Kallum Watkins looked a different player to last year, linking superbly with a threatening Bryce Cartwright and hooker Mitch Rein was sharp out of dummy-half.
A promising club debut from Warriors recruit Sam Lisone was soured when he collected Broncos fullback Jack Bird with a high tackle that will be scrutinised by the NRL's match review committee.
A suspension to Lisone would be a blow to the Titans after he was recruited last week to cover injured club captain Ryan James.
The Titans had the better of play early but the absence of first-choice fullback AJ Brimson (back injury) was telling when an uncontested bomb led to Broncos winger Xavier Coates scoring.
A lapse in concentration from the Titans allowed Broncos hooker Jake Turpin to score from a scrum before Jai Arrow was sin-binned for a professional foul, heaping more pressure on the Gold Coast.
When Tom Flegler exposed Proctor and Tyrone Roberts the Titans trailed 16-0 and had let a promising start descend into shaky territory.
But a captain's run from Proctor got the Titans on the board before a classy offload from Cartwright put the ever-consistent Anthony Don over to make it 16-10 at the break.
It was all the Titans early in the second half, Rein barging over from dummy-half before South Sydney-bound Arrow did the same to give the Titans a 22-16 lead.
Winger Dale Copley made it 28 straight points for the Titans when he crossed, giving the Gold Coast a huge boost ahead of their Round 1 clash against the Raiders in Canberra on March 13.
FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1) The Broncos need to address their defence. After leading 16-0, Brisbane went to sleep, conceding 28 straight points with some soft misses. Darius Boyd was guilty of a bad first-half miss which sparked the Titans' fightback. Boyd also made a handling error. The axed skipper cannot afford too many off nights this season.
2) The Titans showed plenty of heart in their first proper hitout under new coach Justin Holbrook. The Gold Coast was regularly accused of throwing the towel in last season and they could have easily done the same when the Broncos bounced out to a 16-0 lead. Instead, they fought back, scoring 28 straight points to record a confidence-boosting win.
3) Broncos prop Payne Haas will be a Dally M Medal contender this season. The 117kg monster is simply too big and too fast to be stopped. Haas terrorised the Titans last night and such was his authority, he had amassed a staggering 151 metres ... by halftime! Haas is constantly hungry for work and bends the advantage line at will. It's scary to think how good the 20-year-old can become.
4) Brodie Croft is ticking all the boxes to succeed in the poisoned chalice that is the Broncos No.7 jumper. Just arrived from Melbourne, Croft has settled in beautifully at the Broncos. He was very good, showing good speed to slice through the Titans early in the first half. His kicking game was sound and he provided direction.
5) Titans halfback Ash Taylor is back. Taylor had a forgettable 2019 campaign but he was solid in his first proper hitout for 2020. Taylor looked confident in an 80-minute performance and his sideline goalkicking was exquisite.
-Peter Badel, Travis Meyn