05/03/2024

Vani Pelite stunned the Eels in the first half. (Photo: Gold Coast Titans)

Heading into a must-win clash with the Parramatta Eels, Gold Coast Titans coach Karyn Murphy looked to the experience of Vani Pelite to make a difference.

Spending most of her time in the NRLW as a centre, the Olympic gold medallist was switched to full-back, as the club looked for the spark to claim their first win of the season.

The Titans have struggled to make much of an impact on the 2022 season. While they came frustratingly close to the Knights, they also suffered big losses to the Dragons and Broncos.

But the move seemed to unlock the potential of the Titans attack, as they put down three tries in the first half alone.

Pelite’s influence was undeniable – in the first 40, she racked up a massive 156 run metres. She gathered every kick that came her way, and started sets well into the Titans’ defensive half.

She would finish the match with a game-high 289 run metres and 11 tackle breaks, setting the Titans up for their first victory of 2022.

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It didn’t take long for the Titans to strike, with Steph Hancock getting over the line in the seventh minute to become the NRLW leading try-scorer.

She now has four tries for the season, putting herself one up on the pack of players tied on three each. No Titans player has won the leading try-scorer award yet.

Lauren Brown converted truly, and it was on from there.

Veteran Brittany Breayley-Nati flicked a brilliant pass to prop Shannon Mato for her first try of the season, as the Titans made the most of their dominance.

Time after time, they were tackling the Eels within 20 metres of their half before any runs could start.

It was a frustrating start for Jasmine Peters, who was stopped within centimetres of the try-line twice, unlucky to not open her try-scoring in 2022.

As the first half wore on, the Titans seemed to lose focus, as their discipline faltered. They gave away a penalty and knocked on a pass to give the Eels their first try through Zali Fay, who put it down in the corner.

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Heading into the break with an 18-4 lead, the game would change completely for the Titans from there.

Parramatta suddenly came to life, running harder, finding space and taking territory with significantly higher drive and aggression.

Tayla Preston set the tone in just her third game, utilising her kicking game to gain 323 metres. She was similarly magnificent last week against the Knights, assisting all three of her team’s tries.

Star lock Simaima Taufa struck first for the Eels, breaking multiple tackles and going on a huge run to bring the margin down to eight with her fourth try of the season, equalling Hancock.

The shoe was firmly on the other foot, and the Eels had the ascendancy, pushing home hard.

Taufa and Gayle Broughton started to take territory with ease, combining for 316 metres and 11 tackle breaks between them. Taufa was similarly impactful defensively, making 45 tackles.

Broughton set up the play for Rima Butler’s try, who alongside Filomina Hanisi had a major impact off the bench, but it was too late as the Titans held on.

The Titans’ finals dreams are still alive, but they will have to hope the Broncos drop their next game to the Dragons, and will then have to beat them in Round 5.

It’s season over for the Eels however, in a disappointing return for the club after qualifying in their first season in 2021.

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