On a cold and dewy Friday night at Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Wests Tigers have gone down 26-14 to the Gold Coast Titans in front of a vocal crowd of 6,891.
Trailing by just two points at the break, Wests Tigers looked to have leveled the match midway through the second when Malakai Watene-Zelezniak crashed over, only to be denied by the Bunker — sparking a run of Titans tries to blow the game open.
Wests Tigers would keep trying to find something in attack but were let down by poor last tackle options, falling to an eight-point defeat for their sixth loss in succession.
The home side got the match off to the perfect start when an inside ball close to the line from David Nofoaluma saw Esan Marsters crash over — his second try in as many starts.
Tuimoala Lolohea was unable to convert from out wide, leaving the score at 4-0.
After forcing an error in the ensuing set, Gold Coast looked to hit back straight away, but stirring goal-line defence from Sauaso Sue and Aaron Woods saw Wests Tigers hold on.
With strong runs from Jacob Liddle and Moses Suli breaking the Titans open up the middle, the home side would waste the chance to pull further in front when Lolohea’s kick ran dead in the in-goal — giving the visitors a seven-tackle set from the 20m.
And that would prove costly for Ivan Cleary’s men as Konrad Hurrell burrowed over from close range, leveling the match at 4-4 after Ash Taylor was unable to convert.
Having been so dominant through the opening 15 minutes, Wests Tigers would be made to pay for their further ill-discipline as the visitors stole a 10-4 lead shortly after, with William Zillman diving over in the corner after a good shift to the left edge.
Taylor’s sideline conversion would give the Titans a six-point lead after 25 minutes.
Needing to hit back before the half-time break, Lolohea would make up for his earlier error with a deft moment of skill — stepping under pressure as he caught the ball before floating the ball over the top to Nofoaluma, who touched down in the far corner.
That effort would give Nofoaluma the all-time try-scoring record for Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Sports Stadium but, more importantly, would cut the lead to 10-8.
Lolohea was unable to convert from the sideline, leaving the score as such at the break.
Put under pressure to start the second half following a number of controversial decisions, Wests Tigers would rally and look to strike back — only for a dangerous move down the left edge to break down with Aaron Woods’ pass falling behind Luke Brooks.
Sauaso Sue was penalised for a shot off the ball in the following set, and Gold Coast would again make their opponents pay — this time Jarryd Hayne getting involved for the first time of the night to send Hurrell over for his second try of the evening.
Taylor shanked his conversion from close range, however, leaving the score at 14-8.
A brilliant piece of defence turned into attack from Watene-Zelezniak looked to have turned the game for Wests Tigers — only for the Bunker to deny the try after the decision was originally ruled as play-on on-field. And off the back of a dubious offside penalty, the Titans would work the ball down field and quickly blow the game open as two tries to Hayne saw the visitors race to a commanding 26-8 advantage.
Sauaso Sue would pull one back for Wests Tigers in the dying moments, but it would be all in vain for Ivan Cleary’s side as the Titans emerge with a comfortable 26-14 victory.
Gold Coast Titans 26 (Hurrell 2, Hayne 2, Zillman tries; Taylor 3/5 goals) def. Wests Tigers 14 (Marsters, Nofoaluma, Sue tries; Lolohea 1/3 goals)