In the first ever game at the new Skilled Park at Robina, the Gold Coast Titans scored an easy victory over the Wests Tigers 32-4. Apart from the first 10 minutes, the Tigers really looked disinterested and unconditioned. In what is a concern for coach Tim Sheens, the Tigers were particulary soft up the middle of the field – getting cut up regularly as the Titans put on a show for their home crowd.
The Gold Coast Titans played well, however it was probably the poor showing from the Wests Tigers that opened the door for the big win. Being played for the inaugural Larry Corowa Shield, the christening of the new Skilled Stadium was undertaken by over 14,000 local fans – all rushing to get a piece of the action at the new home of Rugby League on the Gold Coast.
The Stadium itself is an ideal design for Rugby League viewing, the team from NRL News travelled to the venue and were suitably impressed with the layout. While suggestions of over 14,000 pre-sold tickets and an eventual sellout were marketing hype the close quarters design of the Stadium ensured the atmosphere was consistently powerful – something Telstra Stadium and Suburban Ground teams could only pray for. The only problem at Robina was the car parking, with no stadium car park yet released – it was chaos as Police blocked surrounding streets and forced everyone to walk long distances to the venue on foot.
The concern for the Tigers must now be Benji Marshall. He was exciting in attack and was linking brilliantly with Chris Lawrence at times, the pair always threatening – however in defence, it was the same story from yesteryear withÂ BenjiÂ getting targeted regularly and coming up with thin air as the traffic ran through.
Coach John Cartwright now faces a welcome selection headache before their season opening clash against the Cowboys at the same venue later this month after using a near full-strength squad.
It will be back to the drawing board for Tigers coach Tim Sheens after his team’s lacklustre effort despite using a big name squad missing just Ryan O’Hara (jaw).
After the Gold Coast took a 12-0 half-time lead, the 14,386-strong crowd found their full voice after Titans stand-in full-back Brenton Bowen crashed down the left sideline in the 46th minute to blow the scoreline out to 16-0.
But the Tigers finally bared their claws in the 51st when a Benji Marshall run set up centre Chris Lawrence down the left flank.
However, that only seemed to motivate the Titans who ran in another three tries to blow out the scoreline.
Several positions were up for grabs at the Titans with just backrower Anthony Laffranchi (knee) and Preston Campbell (quad) left out of the squad.
But Cartwright seems to have already solved his five-eighth dilemma.
Fresh from his success in last weekend’s trial win over the Cowboys, dual international Mat Rogers again combined well with half-back Scott Prince to set up the Gold Coast’s 12-0 half-time lead.
Cartwright would have been forgiven for having some early nervous moments after Tigers centre Dene Halatau opened up the Titans defence in the opening minute and the visitors trapping Bowen in-goal in the second.
Tigers prop Keith Galloway knocking on from the ensuing goal-line drop out and throwing the ball away in disgust seemed to sum up their match.
The Titans made the Tigers pay with a Rogers bust setting up backrower Mark Minichiello’s try in the 12th minute.
The Gold Coast piled on the pressure but had little to show for it after three disallowed tries in seven minutes.
Winger Jordan Atkins (20th minute) and co-captain Luke Bailey (24th) were held up before winger Ben Jeffery (27th) was denied due to a forward pass.
There was no stopping Prince in the 36th minute when the former international put on a wonderful step and offloaded for forward Aaron Cannings to crash over near the posts.
Cartwright said the Titans had already proved in their trial form that they had improved from last year’s debut season when they finished one win outside the top eight.
“The last couple of weeks have probably been a little bit too good for trial form. You don’t want to waste playing like that at a trial – but it’s a great sign for us,” he said.
“The best thing is the amount of players that we have used at various stages during the trials and no one has let themselves down – they have all given themselves the best shot to play in that opening game
“It creates a headache but it’s a good headache.”
Meanwhile, Sheens was more disheartened by “injury concerns” that came out of the game – but refused to name them.
“We have a couple of issues with injury. I don’t know if they will be ready in two weeks – but I would rather not say (who is injured),” he said.
“I’ve got two weeks (before season’s kick-off). I will not be name dropping or telling anyone any more than I need to tell them.”
Thankfully for Tigers fans, Marshall was not one of them.
“There were some things I wasn’t happy with (Marshall’s game) but at the end of the day he got through,” Sheens said.
In the NRL opening round, the Titans host North Queensland on March 14 while Wests Tigers take on traditional rivals St George Illawarra at the SCG two days later