The Gold Coast Titans had slumped to last place on the NRL ladder after five rounds last year. Now just twelve months on the club has managed to turn it all round, recording their third win of the 2021 season when they demolished the Newcastle Knights 42-16.
The Titans faithful turned out to brave the unwavering heat and reaped the rewards as Justin Holbrook’s men out enthused their southern counterparts in an eight try to three shellacking, including a hat-trick to new signing David Fifita.
“The region loves rugby league but they’re relying on us playing well to make sure they come out,” Titans coach Justin Holbrook told the media.
“A performance like that was important for everyone at our club and hopefully the region continues to get behind us and come out in bigger numbers next home game.”
Fifita made sure the rugby league world was watching when he crossed for a first half double, only to complete his hat-trick midway through the second stanza, breaking the line on three occasions and recording eight tackle busts.
“He’s [Fifita] been terrific for us,” Holbrook said.
“The more he gets involved and the more he keeps himself in the game the better as a side we’re going to be.”
The men on the edges also impressed with Corey Thompson (16 carries for 220 metres) and centre turned makeshift winger Patrick Herbert (13 carries for 107 metres) both crossing for doubles.
Corey Thompson once an unwanted Wests Tiger has proven to be one of the best signings of recent years, with the powerhouse winger scoring six tries in the opening five rounds of 2021.
With all eyes on the battle of the fullbacks, Kalyn Ponga (15 carries for 179 metres) proved influential in some of the Knights earlier attacking raids, but had a mixed day in defence, failing to stop Fifita on multiple occasions.
AJ Brimson (18 carries for 219 metres) worked his way into the game, breaking the line open midway through the second half, setting up Patrick Herbert to score his second in a stunning 95 metre effort.
The Titans took a 26-12 lead into the shed after Fifita scored a first half double in what was an impressive opening stanza for the home side.
Fifita crossed early when he made the most of a quick tap from just outside the ten. The former Bronco then crossed for his second just ten minutes later, leaving Queensland teammate Kalyn Ponga in his wake.
The points flowed early for the Gold Coast who were desperate to make amends after only scoring a single try in their last start, sprinting out to a 12-0 lead after just nine minutes of play.
Kevin Proctor crossed in the opening moments after the ever-present Tyrone Peachey (20 carries for 177 metres) broke through the Knights left edge, before Patrick Herbert scored just moments later for his first try in new colours.
Chris Randall scored in his only run of the game, crossing just a few sets later after Holbrook’s men failed to defend multiple sets on their line, the Knights lock then leaving the field with a suspected wrist injury.
Newcastle’s only other points in the half came minutes before the buzzer when winger Stafford To’a (9 carries for 65 metres) crossed over after a wide pass from fill in five eighth Connor Watson (11 carries for 85 metres).
Second half tries to Fifita, Herbert and Thompson proved too much for the Novocastrians to keep up with, as Ponga scored one of the more exciting consolation tries when he evaded his opposite to cross.
“It was clear to me in the first two sets that defence wasn’t our priority today,” Knights coach Adam O’Brien admitted.
“Other than Fifita, he [Ponga] was the best player on the field with the ball.
“Every time he had it, we looked dangerous.”
The Titans now sit in sixth position on the ladder with their next outing an away game against the 14th placed Sea Eagles.
Meanwhile the Knights will be hoping they can avoid four straight defeats when they return home against the Sharks.