Sea Eagles 14
The Titans outlined their potential as NRL finalists last night with this defeat of Manly.
Two of the strongest defensive sides in the NRL wrestled each other dourly in a humid Gold Coast first half. It was well over half an hour before the first points arrived, and even then it was only courtesy of a penalty for a mad-headed shoulder charge by Manly's Richie Fa'oso on the Titans' lock Ashley Harrison. Up till then Harrison may have been enjoying his 250th NRL game. He didn't enjoy it much afterwards, leaving the ground apparently unconscious on a stretcher.
With apologies to Harrison, his injury was the only clean break of the entire half. The defences were rarely strained and a kick looked the only way anyone was going to score.
That all changed after the break, when the Titans' big forwards began to tell. The giant Dave Taylor pulled several Manly defenders with him and then interchange forward Ryan James broke two tackles to score under the bar. At 8-0 down, Manly had to score next but a deft grubber by young stand-off Albert Kelly, showing promise, set up winger David Mead for the try as Manly winger Jorge Taufua made a hash of the gather. At 14-0, it looked bad for Manly.
Taufua made amends with a well-taken try after strong lead-up play by Kiwi Kieran Foran. A few minutes later, Foran also helped engineer a try to interchange forward Tom Symonds. He clattered through goal line defenders, showing strength to touch down. Suddenly, Manly had their touch back, fouling a couple of chances before in-form centre Steve Matai - the player of the second half - somehow produced a grubber on the run for Taufua to beat a surprised Titans' defence. Suddenly, in the space of 10 minutes, it was 14-14.
Then, disaster for Manly. Daly Cherry-Evans kicked out on the full from a goal-line drop-out - an instant penalty and dead-eye Aidan Selzer kicked the goal for the win. Manly are too well-drilled and too slick to lose many matches this year and they will be what they always are - championship contenders. But last night the passes just would not stick in the face of the Titans' determined defence.
Titans 16 (R. James, D. Mead tries; A. Sezer 4 goals), Manly 14 (J. Taufua 2, T. Symonds tries; J. Lyon goal). Halftime: 2-0.