A fit and ferocious Canberra Raiders have overcome atrocious conditions and their own handling deficiencies to comfortably account for the Gold Coast Titans 21-0 at Cbus Super Stadium.
The Titans were dealt a blow prior to kick-off when halfback Ash Taylor was ruled out with a quadriceps injury and their playmaking stocks took a further hit just 12 minutes into the contest.
Five-eighth Tyrone Roberts was forced from the field with a suspected Achilles tendon injury and while it is not thought to be a complete rupture, it will likely place him on the sidelines for more than a month.
That forced a further reshuffle of the back line with Tyrone Peachey joining AJ Brimson in the halves and Dale Copley coming on at left centre. Cohesion in attack was an issue for the Titans for the entire 80 minutes.
A crowd of 9843 brave souls had to wait until the 20th minute to see first points posted and it took until 15 seconds from half-time before the first try was scored.
On the back of Sia Soliola’s four-pointer the Raiders carried a 10-0 advantage into the break and then extended their lead courtesy of a try to Joey Leilua less than four minutes into the second term, an Aidan Sezer field goal and Jarrod Croker penalty goal pushing the final margin out to 21 points.
Match: Titans v Raiders
Round 1 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Renowned for the size of their pack in years gone by, it was the mobility and ferocity of the Canberra big men that kept the Titans under so much pressure.
Queensland forward Josh Papalii looked reborn in the front row, Soliola’s granite-like defence and wholehearted runs challenged the Titans at every turn and in his NRL debut, English back-rower John Bateman played well above his weight, bouncing out of tackles time and again to force the Gold Coast pack into repeat efforts, logging 145 run metres, 36 tackles and five tackle busts in a super-impressive first up performance.
Soliola collects a Hodgson kick
Penalties, forward passes and dropped balls punctuated a frustrating opening 40 minutes, first points not posted until Canberra skipper Jarrod Croker piloted a penalty goal through the sticks at the 20-minute mark.
He doubled his side’s advantage seven minutes later on the back of three consecutive penalties against the Titans and then with 15 seconds left before the break a Josh Hodgson grubber found space in the Titans’ in-goal, Soliola planting the ball down for a 10-0 lead at half-time.
Titans fullback Michael Gordon was pressured into spilling a Jack Wighton bomb 10 metres out from his own line three minutes after the resumption and on the back of some clever second phase play Leilua found himself in so much space that there was next to no hope of stopping him.
The Raiders repeatedly invited the Titans back into the contest with their inability to complete sets in the second half but in spite of their best efforts the home side were unable to find a way through the Canberra defence.
A late call-up to replace Taylor in the starting side, Brimson thought he had scored 18 minutes from full-time only for the desperate pass from Brenko Lee to be ruled forward, and the Raiders made them pay.
Using a stripping penalty to advance their way downfield, former Titans star Aidan Sezer found debutant winger Bailey Simonsson with a pin-point kick to the corner and an 18-0 lead heading into the final 15 minutes.