Giant-killing Titans are Queensland’s No. 1 team
CAN you believe it? Yes, it's true ... the Titans are currently Queensland's No.1 team.
The Titans club that has endured more low points than a deep-sea diver has rocketed into the top eight after two-try workhorse Jai Arrow inspired a gutsy 32-20 defeat of Manly in Gladstone on Sunday.
Playing in the town that spawned Queensland Origin great Gary Larson, it was fitting that the Titans' triumph was built on the very qualities that made him a Maroons ironman - courage and granitelike defence.
The Titans defended like Larson in his pomp to bolt to a 20-8 half-time lead, then summoned true grit to repel a fierce Manly fightback that whittled the deficit to 22-20 entering the final quarter.
Under siege, the Titans prevailed, halfback Ashley Taylor just edging out Daly Cherry-Evans in an epic playmaking duel with a hand in two match-sealing tries in the final five minutes.
The classy Taylor ignited a 74th-minute short-side rush for Anthony Don to cross and when he slipped a short ball for a flying Arrow 90 seconds from time, the Sea Eagles were shot.
Fittingly, Kiwi Test back-rower Kevin Proctor delivered the coup de grace, slotting the final conversion to ice the celebrations of his 200th NRL game.
"The Titans in the past may have got beaten, but we stuck tight and that was the pleasing thing," coach Garth Brennan said.
"They are believing in themselves. The pleasing thing is the resolve this team is showing.
"I would have been disappointed if we didn't get the result. We were the better team. Manly really gave it to us, but we're a tight-knit team."
For too long, the Titans have resided in the shadow of the mighty Cowboys and Broncos, but they have now won three games this season - as many as Queensland's Big Two combined.
The metamorphosis has been as emphatic as it is swift. A fortnight ago, the Titans were the NRL's laughing stock after conceding 54 points against the Dragons on a horrible afternoon in Toowoomba.
Now the Titans are playing with a harder edge. The poster boy is Arrow. The industrious lock is the superglue of their pack.
The 22-year-old former Bronco channelled Larson as he amassed 20 tackles and 143 metres from 17 runs. Oh, and Arrow also produced four tackle busts, two offloads and two line-breaks. Superb.
"Jai was the best on field," Titans skipper Ryan James said. "He came from the Broncos to play longer minutes. He has been our best for five rounds."
Arrow's commitment was infectious. Even troubled recruit Bryce Cartwright lifted, setting up Arrow's first try in the 26th minute with a clever flick pass. When Dale Copley left the field with concussion, Cartwright answered an SOS at centre.
"Bryce took a real step forward," Brennan said. "I don't think he's ever played centre before, so he stepped in and did a great job."
GOLD COAST 32 (J Arrow 2 M Boyle A Don J Wallace tries M Gordon 5 K Proctor goals) bt MANLY 20 (D Cherry-Evans B Kelly J Wright tries D Cherry-Evans 4 goals) at Marley Brown Oval. Referee: Ashley Klein, Tim Roby. Crowd: 5,136