The Gold Coast Titans have fended off a late Wests Tigers comeback to kick start their 2023 campaign with a 22-10 upset win at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday evening.
The Titans trailed by two points early but ran in three tries to lead 18-2 after 42 minutes as Tim Sheens looked on in concern as the home side struggled with a completion rate below 65 per cent for the contest.
Tries to Adam Doueihi and Daine Laurie sparked the Wests Tigers with 15 minutes to go but costly errors and poor goal-kicking killed off any chance of setting up a big finish.
A try to AJ Brimson via a crafty scrum play from Jayden Campbell secured the win for the Titans and Justin Holbrook, who looked comfortable for most of the contest despite a weight of possession against them.
Sheens, returning to the club for his first game in charge since 2012, opted to start new skipper Api Koroisau off the bench, a decision that came back to bite them as the Titans scored twice before he got on the field.
David Fifita bust leads to Sami try
The much-anticipated combination of Kieran Foran and David Fifita on the left edge fired early to help send Phil Sami over the line for the Titans' opening try.
Sami was in again 10 minutes later to set up a 12-2 lead following a David Nofoaluma error that enabled the Titans space for Brimson to grubber for the centre to plant the ball down.
Former Wests Tigers forward Sam McIntyre went from villain to hero after the break when he made up for an early error to clean up a kick and score untouched to extend the visitors' lead.
Match: Wests Tigers v Titans
Round 1 -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
The home side needed a spark to bring the packed crowd into the contest and did momentarily when Doueihi got on the outside of Foran to sprint to the line for the side's first of the season.
Foran's evening was over shortly after as he limped off the field with a knee injury, bringing Campbell into the game on the left edge.
His ability to set up Brimson from the scrum relieved any momentum the home side began to create with the Titans opening their account ahead of a clash against the Dragons next week in Round 2.
- Wests Tigers completed at 61 percent in the opening 40 minutes to surrender a 12-2 lead on home turf.
- Titans forward Tino Fa'asuamaleaui was placed on report in the 16th minute for high contact on Daine Laurie.
- Phil Sami crossed for his eighth career double in the first half.
- Wests Tigers generated 18 offloads to four in the loss but came up with 14 errors and 48 missed tackles.
- Wests Tigers back-rower Shawn Blore failed a head injury assessment in the 18th minute and did not return.
- Titans recruit Kieran Foran left the field in the 55th minute with a knee injury.
- Daine Laurie has now scored six tries in his last six games at Leichhardt Oval.
- Wests Tigers centre Tommy Talau finished the game with leg cramps while Brent Naden also struggled in the second half with a knee complaint.
- Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens reached the milestone of 250 games as coach of the club on Sunday.
- The Titans have now won nine of their past 11 games against Wests Tigers.
- The Titans won their first Round 1 game since 2018, completing at over 81 per cent for the match.
- Wests Tigers have now only won two of their past eight games at Leichhardt Oval.
Play of the game
Jayden Campbell came on for Kieran Foran midway through the second half and despite missing a tackle on Daine Laurie that led to a try, the makeshift playmaker set up AJ Brimson to help secure the win.
Brimson shows off his burners
What they said
"It was a really tough win and I'm thrilled we played well enough to win. We didn't have a lot of attacking opportunities throughout the game but we defended well and that's a credit to the players and staff for the area they've worked hard in. We got tested as well as we could've in Round 1." - Titans coach Justin Holbrook.
"I don't think they won it as much as we lost it with our fundamental errors. We had great patches of defence but little moments broke it away from us. We just didn't nail it every time and scoreboard pressure mounted. I saw enough signs there to be looking forward to next week." - Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens.
Wests Tigers return to the eighth wonder Leichhardt Oval next Sunday for a clash against the Newcastle Knights. New recruit John Bateman won't be rushed into the side for Round 2 with Tim Sheens asking for patience with the England international after a limited pre-season with the squad.
The Titans will return to the Gold Coast for the week before another trip to Sydney in the same timeslot next Sunday evening with a second-round clash set for the Dragons. New Titan Chris Randall is due back from a hamstring injury but is likely to return via Hostplus Cup.