On a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon, the Gold Coast Titans have come away victorious in a high scoring and expansive match.
Points were a plenty on a playing surface that has to be one of the best in Australian sport.
The Melbourne Storm started the game strongly off the back of strong early runs from a dominant Harry Grant but the Gold Coast Titans opened the scoring with a long range effort down their left hand edge that ended with rookie speedster and former Queensland Cup try-scoring machine Alofiana Khan-Pereira.
Jahrome Hughes may face scrutiny after what appeared to be a shoulder charge on Tanah Boyd in the 6th minute and the half added the two points from the resulting penalty to take the Titans out to an early eight point lead.
The Titans showed good line speed in defence but the Storm struck back through a try to highly rated debutant Jonah Pezet when he pinned his ears back and ran 30m after an offload from Justin Olam on the back of a Brian Kelly error that resulted in a scrum near halfway.
Olam, returning from a broken arm sustained in the pre-season, had further impact on the match when he flattened Boyd in an 18th minute tackle that resulted in the young Titans halfback leaving the field for a HIA.
The talented and much-maligned David Fifita was heavily involved in the game early on but after Boyd left the field the Titans briefly lost their way. Gold Coast Captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui clearly took offence to the hit on his halfback and was placed on report for a possible shoulder charge on Eliesa Katoa.
Khan-Pereira showed his speed and elusiveness to make it a double by zipping past Will Warbrick on the wing in the 24th minute and the Titans were out to a 12-6 lead.
From the ensuing kick off, Kieran Foran dropped the ball on his own 20 and Nick Meaney got through soft defence to even up the score.
Not long after, Tariq Sims scored under the posts with his second touch in the Storm jersey from another Foran error and all of a sudden the Storm were out to a twelve point lead.
Titans coach Justin Holbrook benched Foran before halftime when Boyd returned from his HIA, leaving Jayden Campbell on the field in his place,with AJ Brimson shifting to the halves.
Although he appeared to have an ankle injury, Brimson put Brian Kelly over with a neat grubber on the stroke of half time to get the score to 24-18 favouring the Storm.
Even with an extended break due to the heat, the start of the second half was poor for the Storm, with Joseph Vuna scoring his first try in the NRL when Katoa attempted to offload on his own ten metre line.
This was followed by an 80 metre run for Aaron Schoupp to score untouched off the back of a dropped ball from Hughes.
What followed was not the best rugby league has to offer; the Melbourne team making errors and giving away penalties to regularly let the Titans off the hook and out of their own end cheaply.
When Foran did return to the field, Kelly was the one to make way and Campbell shifted to left centre.
On the hour mark, another penalty goal to Boyd put the Titans out to an eight point lead just before the drinks break.
With the Storm metres from the Titans in-goal area, Grant put through a grubber that was played at by the Titans, giving the Storm another set of six.
It then only took one play for Grant to combine with Hughes, with the latter showing his strength close to line to bring the margin back to four, with the Titans leading 32-28.
Minutes later down the other end of the field Fifita drew four defenders when he was tackled a couple of metres out from the line near the lest hand touchline.
Foran, after his errors in the first half, saw the Storm were short on the other side of the field and put in a nice kick that Brimson caught and then passed off the ground, with Schoupp crossing unmarked, extending the lead to 10 with five minutes to go.
The end to end nature of the game didn’t end there and Xavier Coates gave the Storm some hope when he grounded the ball just inside the dead ball line off another Grant grubber and the margin was back to a single try.
With time running out, the Storm spread the ball early and rugby sevens convert Warbrick looked to get around Khan-Pereira only to be dragged into touch
The Titans team managed to hold onto the ball and complete their final set in possession, eventually handing the ball over deep in the Storm half with only twenty seconds on the clock and managed to take the two points, winning 38-34.
It was an entertaining match for the most part but the summer like Queensland temperatures clearly caused fatigue and completion rates were low for both teams, with a lot of points coming from errors.
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Harry Grant (MEL)
2. Brian Kelly (GLD)
1. Kieran Foran (GLD)