LITTLE MAESTRO: During previous forays with Cronulla and Penrith, Preston Campbell, above, has shown plenty of sparks of brilli
LITTLE MAESTRO: During previous forays with Cronulla and Penrith, Preston Campbell, above, has shown plenty of sparks of brilli

Titans new boys issue early warning

By ADRIAN MILLER

sport@northernstar.com.au

WHEN Gavin Cooper dived on a Matt Hilder chip kick to seal the a 22-10 Titans victory over the Eels at Oakes Oval, Lismore on Saturday night he didn't just hand the Gold Coast their first win, he sent a message to the entire NRL competition ? underestimate us at your peril!

It wasn't just the fact that the Titans came away with a victory against Parramatta's strongest available side, in front of a huge crowd of 8612, it was the way in which they notched it which should make the 15 other clubs sit up and take notice.

In what was at times a scrappy affair, with plenty of basic errors made by both sides, the Titans showed their punishing pre-season routine has paid off in a come-from-behind victory.

They not only outlasted an Eels outfit that dominated early territory and possession but they outscored their opponents 18-6 after half-time.

Unlike the previous weekend at Coffs Harbour, when their second-stringers wilted against a late Melbourne Storm onslaught, the Titans seemed to get better as Saturday night's game progressed as Parramatta made more costly mistakes.

Scott Prince at halfback was the standout performer for the Coast, while hooker Clint Amos and fullback Preston Campbell were also dominant.

In his first game of league since 2001, Mat Rogers went largely unnoticed. His first two touches were knock-ons, after two terrible passes, before his first meaningful touch of the ball on 12 minutes.

He made a handful of tackles before being substituted at half-time.

Titans coach John Cartwright said while it was pleasing to notch an early win, it was the manner in which it was achieved that was most impressive.

"It was a typical early season game in there was a lot of dropped ball but the positive to that is that we held them out," he said.

"That bond we had in the defensive line was great and it's something you really need to win games when you're under pressure.

"We probably didn't play that well, but courage-wise it was 10 out of 10."

While pleased with the win, and in an attempt to ease expectations on his side, Cartwright said people shouldn't read too much into it.

"It was a trial and Parramatta fielded about 20-odd players as well," he said.

"If you played an NRL game and turned over that much ball you're never going to win it. I'm very happy with the way we gutsed it out, but technically we need a bit more work."

Gold Coast skipper, Scott Prince, said the team was happy with the win, but wouldn't be getting carried away.

"A win's a win," he said. "You embrace it when it comes and there'll be a spark in our training this week I'm sure; but saying that, there's a long way yet to go so we'll have to wait and see."

After the game the Titans did a lap of honour and Prince said they were overwhelmed with their reception.

"The crowd was great and it was good to see all the Titans supporters out there; and hopefully, with the win tonight, we can convert a few fans," he said.

Parramatta coach Michael Hagan said his side wasn't overly concerned with the loss.

"I don't know if we'll put too much on the result," he said. "We've got some work to do this week and we look forward to next week. We shouldn't be too far away for round one.

"I thought our first half was very good in terms of our control and our defence was very sound.

"The second half was a little bit scratchy for both teams and they finished a bit stronger, probably on the back of the possession they had, but I think we can be pretty happy with what we got done."



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