Souths have managed a huge upset tonight at ANZ Stadium, beating an injury ravaged Titans side 24-23 in a close and entertaining affair. The Bunnies looked likely for the majority of the match, but simple errors and the constant menace of enterprising Titans attack ensured a close contest throughout.
By sticking with Chris Sandow at half-back, the Bunnies were able to ensure they had cohesion for once; the results were there for all to see. While Souths were impressive in the forwards, it was hooker Issac Luke who again stole the show. The robust rake scoring the first two tries, bustling over from dummy half and proving a handful all night for his opposite Nathan Friend.
While rushing final tackle plays at times, Souths look a whole lot sharper with the ball in hand and are certainly threatening the line much more than earlier in the 2008 NRL season.
The Titans had a night they would probably want to forget. Their discipline was erratic for most of the night and as they lost several key players to injury; their depleted bench was always going to prove an endurance problem. The Gold Coast were forced to play the final 15 minutes with only 13 fit players, the likes of Luke Bailey, Daniel Conn and Preston Campbell all sidelined with injuries.
The Gold Coast remained in the contest with the good kicking of Mat Rogers and the creativity of Scott Prince. Queensland half Prince scoring a nice solo try under the posts in the 2nd half, with plenty of attention from Souths defenders, the wiley no.7 was somehow able to skip through the tacklers to get his team ahead.
The Titans were trying desperately to slow the ruck down, the tactics costing them a 9-3 lopsided penalty count which could have been much worse had referee Steve Lyons pinged them for more infringements that went unnoticed. The game wasn’t with controversy, the referee and officials missing up to 3 blatant lost balls in tackles; allowing the game to play on. The NRL also much intervene to stop the growing incidents of ‘milking’ in the game at present, Titans pivot Mat Rogers pulling off an Italian Soccer special early in the match to somehow get his team a 5th tackle penalty with a Souths player not laying a hand on him.
To compound the errors from the officials, video referee Russell Smith came up with another pearler on a held up decision. With Anthony Laffranchi crashing over the Souths line, as 3 defenders tried to hold him up – on-field referee Steve Lyons referred the decision to Smith in the video box. With evidence totally inconclusive, the only viable results were; Ref’s Call, Benefit of the Doubt or the outside bet of No Try. Amazingly Russell Smith came up with none of these and simply threw up the green light – to the dismay of both Souths and Titans players. Video referee results are no truly a lottery, with players, fans and commentators having no idea what the outcome will be.
The final stages had the crowd on their feet as the Bunnies scored with 8 minutes remaining, locking the scores up and setting the scene for golden point at 22 points all.
All the momentum was with Souths; but somehow the wounded Titans made massive metres down field and Scott Prince was able to snap a field goal from 30m without any pressure from Bunnies defenders. The attempt seemed to catch everyone off guard and suddenly the South Sydney side was trailing again 23-22.
With minutes to go, Souths used their thrust in the forwards to roll down field and get within range. Their quick play the balls allowing them to grab quality metres and after a John Sutton bust they had the Titans at sixes and sevens. With a try on offer, Gold Coast defender Jordan Aitkens took the chance to slow the Sutton play the ball and simply held on too long. Referee Lyons having no other option but to award a penalty to Souths from 30m out and to the left of the posts; hooker Issac Luke stepping up and calmly potting the 2 pointer to give his side the advantage.
Souths moving to 10 competition points and leaving the Cowboys all alone at the foot of the ladder. The loss really hurts the Titans and leaves them slightly adrift from the lead pack on the NRL ladder. Gold Coast meet the in-form Dragons in what is shaping as a quality contest next weekend.