Up 16 points and seemingly cruising, the Manly Sea Eagles seemed destined to win. The Gold Coast Titans, however, had other ideas.
The Titans celebrated their eighth win of the year in a high-scoring contest, coming back from a 16-point deficit to win 42-34.
It was the Titans who would actually score first; winger Anthony Don drawing level with David Mead for most tries in Titans colours with 67.
From here, though, Manly would dominate the next exchanges.
In what was essentially the Trbojevic show, brothers Tom and Jake put on an exhibition.
Tom Trbojevic powered his way over the line to get things back to level pegging.
Before Jake Trbojevic started and ended the next play that saw swift hands and brother Tom also involved.
Tom then had his second when a swift back-line play to the right saw him feign a pass and glide over himself to score.
A fourth Manly try came when Joel Thompson ran a perfect line and hustled his way over with ease.
Manly could have had two more tries before the break but Frank Winterstein was short and Thompson was guilty of double movement.
From here, Manly, with a seemingly healthy lead, somehow began to slowly implode.
The Titans, to their credit, dug deep and scored on the cusp of half-time.
It was Alexander Brimson, deputising at fullback, who firstly saved a try on the defensive end.
Then followed that up with a solo effort that saw him coast pass lazy Manly defence to score.
Soon after the resumption, Manly did not know what would soon hit them hard in the face.
Manly-bound Kane Elgey split their defence and halves team-mate Ash Taylor was there in support to score.
The Titans would go back-to-back as a slick back-line movement saw Philip Sami score in the left corner.
Providing some lift and energy off the bench, Mitch Rein then dived his way over to give the Titans the lead again at 26-22.
There was then no denying Jack Stockwell who will avoid the dreaded nudie run; he just got the ball down on the line.
Brimson then did it all himself yet again. Facing his own try-line, he swiveled, grubbered ahead, regathered and scored, making it look easy.
Things then got even worse for Manly when Dylan Walker was sin-binned for a professional foul.
Despite the player disadvantage, Manly found a way to score as Tom turned provider for brother Jake to give the Manly lock his second try.
Remarkably, Manly would then score again; another bustling effort by Tom Trbojevic who was in fine form.
The Titans would hold on, however, and get a much needed win to stay well and truly away from the wooden spoon battle.
With plenty of talk surrounding the future of Manly coach Trent Barrett and whether he will leave, that did not affect the players.
“Only a player can answer that and it doesn’t affect you,” Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans said.
“It honestly doesn’t.
“We’re paid to do a job and at the end of the day when you cross the white line, any player knows it’s business.
“It doesn’t matter what is happening. You go out there and do a job the best your can. Headlines don’t make you miss tackles. That’s just poor footy.”
The selection headaches now exist for Titans coach Garth Brennan after Brimson’s blistering form but he welcomes it.
“It’s nice to have. We’ve probably lacked that over the last 12 months or so – depth,” Brennan said.
“Michael Gordon has been one of our best players all year. He’s Mr. Reliable, ‘Flash’.
“One door opens and it’s another opportunity.
I’ve said publicly that I think AJ’s future going forward is probably at fullback.
“The only thing concerning me about throwing him in so early was understanding defensive structures and getting the numbering [in defence] right.”
Player of the Game:
3. AJ Brimson
2. Tom Trbojevic
- Jake Trbojevic