The Parramatta Eels have a long way to go before finding their best form, surprisingly falling over at home to a spirited Gold Coast Titans outfit. The Eels scraping together some opportunist tries to make a game of it, but ultimately being out-gunned by the Titans – even with the assistance of a huge penalty count in their favour.
Prince did it all as the Titans won away from home for just the third time in the club’s short existence, but it was a victory they were made to work hard for.
Interchange utility Josh Graham made sure of the win just five minutes from fulltime, but his try had a touch of controversy to it.
It ended a spirited Parramatta fightback, the Eels now with just two wins from their first five games and well short of the sort of form which had them touted as premiership challengers.
With all eyes on under pressure Parramatta playmaker Tim Smith as he continued his comeback to the top grade, Prince put on a master class on how to play in the No.7 jumper.
The former Test half teased and tormented the Eels all night in both defence and attack, his kicking game forcing the home side to continually rake the ball back out their own line.
His influence was never more telling than just after the break when, with the Titans clinging to a 16-8 lead and the Eels enjoying repeat sets on the visitors line, Prince cleaned up a dangerous Smith grubber with a slips-like grab.
A Brett Delaney break took the Titans downfield from where Prince took over again as he dummied twice and stepped through to extend the lead to beyond two converted tries.
But it was an advantage they needed every point of as the Eels stormed back into the game, the ball turning into a hot potato as it was spread from one side of the field to the other at which point Joel Reddy took advantage of an two-man overlap to score out wide.
When Brett Finch grubbered for himself to score the lead was down to just two before Graham ensured the two competition points with his late effort.
Prince was instrumental in getting the Titans ahead at the half-time break, a miraculous 40-20 which hugged the sideline swinging the momentum which had favoured the home side in the early exchanges.
Finally in good field position, Prince threw a cut-out ball for Matt Petersen to score against his former club before another ex-Eel, Aaron Cannings, crashed over next to the posts for a 10-0 after 24 minutes.
The try looked like it had come at a cost with Cannings making his way to the sidelines after dislocating his shoulder only to pop it back into place and re-enter the fray immediately.
The crowd took great delight as Petersen undid much of his earlier good work as he fumbled the kick-off over the dead ball line, the Eels getting back into the contest as a result with Smith putting Nathan Hindmarsh over.
It wasn’t all good news for the visitors with five-eighth Mat Rogers put on report for a lifting tackle on Luke Burt in the 32nd minute.
Titans coach John Cartwright said there was no doubt that the performance of his half-back was the difference between the two sides.
“He’s probably the best half-back in the game at the moment,” Cartwright said.
“We got no quality ball in the second half and we needed to score again to win and on the back of all the defence they had to do … to just come up with two tries out of nothing speaks for itself.”
Cartwright said he hadn’t made an issue of the club’s poor record away from home in the lead-up, but was pleased at securing the win without injured prop Luke Bailey.
“It was probably our gutsiest win since we kicked off last year for sure,” he said.
“It (poor away form) is not something that’s really bothered us. I was very confident coming here tonight.”
Eels coach Michael Hagan said the video referee’s decision at the end of the contest summed up the night for his side.
“It was maybe one if those calls that went against us,” Hagan said.
“I thought there were enough elements to it to suggest it may have been (a double movement), but I’m not blaming that for the loss or that performance.”