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Gold Coast Titans have returned to the equal top of the National Rugby League ladder after a gritty 22 points to 6 win over the Wests Tigers in front of 8,929 fans at Leichhardt Oval.
Following the three ANZAC Day clashes being played in larger arenas - Sunday brought a return to the suburban roots of rugby league as a slightly soggy Leichhardt Oval hosted a match which matched the overhead conditions at times. It never reached any great heights but was an enthralling contest throughout.
Gold Coast have been the major surprise packet if not trivia question for years to follow being the only side since the 1950s to lead the competition with a negative points difference. It will be no consequence to the fans though after some lean years the Gold Coast have started 2014 with a bang.
Similarly they started this contest off with a bang - memories of the thumping defeat in round two still ringing loud in their ears. Aidan Sezer missed an early penalty but cleared that out of his mind scoring the opening try combined with potting his second penalty goal to give the Titans an eight-nil lead after fifteen minutes.
No one embodied the spirit of the contest this afternoon than Greg Bird who scored late on to confirm the victory for his side combining with our LeagueUnlimited Man of the Match Aidan Sezer who slid a grubber through for the second rower to pounce upon. Earlier the tireless forward was getting in the face of the Wests forwards forcing errors and penalties.
He added a penalty goal to his point tally after taking over goal kicking duties from Aidan Sezer. Just before the break it was the lesser light but no less hard working Paul Carter imitated his team-mate getting in the face of Braith Anasta causing the charge down then sending winger Anthony Don away to extend the lead to 16-nil at the break.
Tigers entertained the brief notion of a comeback when Blake Austin starting from the interchange bench provided a spark for the home side, as he didn't give up on a rebounded kick giving Tim Simona the opportunity to pounce once Kevin Gordon kicked it into his direction in trying to clear. It was the closest the Tigers got in being out-muscled and out-enthused by the Gold Coast Titans who lost halfback Albert Kelly halfway through the first half with a lower leg fracture.
The locals will be disappointed especially after the manner of victory in their last home game at Leichhardt plus their last gasp victory over the Parramatta Eels on Easter Monday. For the Gold Coast Titans they will be chuffed to sit next to Canterbury and Manly, two perennial top four teams with a good start to 2014.
WESTS TIGERS (6)
Tries: Tim Simona
Conversions: Pat Richards (1/1)
GOLD COAST TITANS (22)
Tries: Aidan Sezer, Greg Bird, Anthony Don
Conversions: Aidan Sezer (1/1), Greg Bird (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Aidan Sezer (1/2), Greg Bird (1/2)
Welcome to soggy Leichhardt Oval for an exciting clash between two teams who have surprised quite a few pundits this season, as they are both sitting well in the top eight. Wests will be looking to build upon their last grasp victory over Parramatta last weekend plus do the sweep over the Titans this season after they flogged the Queensland side at their own stadium earlier this season.
Gold Coast themselves are coming off a close loss to the Penrith Panthers last Monday to avenge the aforementioned loss with the side looking to improve their for and against as well.
WST: It is only a cosmetic change for the Tigers - Liam Fulton joins the bench as Sitaleki Akauola will start.
GLD: For the away side, Maurice Blair is OUT with Dave Taylor, yes you read that right shifting to the centres. Mark Minichiello takes his second row spot with Cody Nelson making his debut off the bench at age 25.
1: We have the traditional ANZAC ceremonies including the last post which is observed impeccably by the crowd. We're moments away from kick-off here.
1: KICK-OFF! Tigers with first use here.
3: PENALTY Titans - late shot on Aidan Sezer who opts for the penalty goal.
3: UNSUCCESSFUL PENALTY GOAL GOLD COAST TITANS
Penalty goal attempt by Aidan Sezer unsuccessful.
Sezer 30 metres out, hooks it wide.
7: TRY GOLD COAST TITANS
Scored by Aidan Sezer. Kick to come.
Hail Sezer! It has been an energetic start from the Titans with Kelly light stepping down the field finding the five-eighth who gets it down.
8: SUCCESSFUL CONVERSION GOLD COAST TITANS
Conversion attempt by Aidan Sezer successful.
Sezer makes no mistake with this one unlike the penalty piloting it through.
11: PENALTY Tigers - hand on the ball.. personally they might have been scared of Aaron Woods 80s headband.
14: PENALTY Titans - offside. That comes as a relief for the visitors as Albert Kelly's long pass went into a Tigers hand. It was started with a good alley-oop style pass from Taylor to Don. Sezer opts for the PENALTY goal again.
15: SUCCESSFUL PENALTY GOAL GOLD COAST TITANS
Penalty goal attempt by Aidan Sezer successful.
Sezer nails this one though.
17: PENALTY Tigers - the Leichhardt crowd gets what they want after the Titans players were offside on multiple tackles.
18: That is magic - I don't know how Albert Kelly does it every week! Tigers went down the short side looking for quick hands but it only found Kelly who counter attacks.
19: Gold Coast are on this afternoon! The fifth tackle kick wasn't the greatest allowing Lawrence to run away but he was quickly corralled by Mark Minichiello into touch.
20: PENALTY Titans - All over the ball like a teenager at a formal. Titans play on this time though.
21: Beau Falloon with a panicked kick there to sum up a sloppy set from the Titans.
23: Another soft ending from the Titans with Albert Kelly's kick just falling into the hands Pat Richards. The halfback got hammered for his trouble.
24: Luke Brooks in a weekend of magnificent solo efforts almost added his name to the list - he kicked through for himself, regathered kicked again and recovered again before knocking on. Positive intent from the halfback though.
24: SIN BIN
Nate Myles is sent to the sin bin.
Tigers slice through once again, Luke Brooks dummying his way through and Nate Myles just obstructs Martin Taupau for ten metres. He is sin binned for his trouble.
25: VIDEO REFEREE: Tigers claiming their first points here - checking the lead runner though.
25: RED LIGHTS..NO TRY! Simona's effort is chalked off. The referee went with the obstruction call - you just don't know with these calls anymore.
25: PENALTY Titans - high contact from Braith Anasta on Greg Bird. Bodene Thompson doesn't help matters with a facial on the second rower.
26: Aidan Sezer - controlling the tempo like the emperor of Rome amongst his subjects puts a grubber through that traps David Nofoaluma in-goal. Six more coming for the Titans.
27: UNFORCED ERROR WESTS TIGERS
Luke Brooks makes an unforced error.
Brooks who has been everywhere for the Tigers thus far just spills the intercept.
29: Strip PENALTY or the roulette wheel I like to call it, is called against Blair. Titans opt for the posts again.
29: SUCCESSFUL PENALTY GOAL GOLD COAST TITANS
Penalty goal attempt by Greg Bird successful.
Greg Bird steps up for this one and same result.
32: Titans rucking it forward half their own momentum with a knock on at dummy-half.
36: TRY GOLD COAST TITANS
Scored by Anthony Don. Kick to come.
Is Don, Is Good for the Titans! Paul Carter gets in the face of Braith Anasta on last to force a charge down that he recovers. The interchange forward sets up his winger to stroll in for the TRY.
37: SUCCESSFUL CONVERSION GOLD COAST TITANS
Conversion attempt by Greg Bird successful.
Greg Bird with another easy assignment, puts it through again.
39: The end to that set just summed up this half for the Tigers - they have been ponderous, errant and lacking rhythm as they got caught on fifth tackle.
39: UNFORCED ERROR GOLD COAST TITANS
Paul Carter makes an unforced error.
Titans try the crash ball to Carter who spills it.
40: PENALTY Tigers - Greg Bird with a clumsy effort that crept high there, nothing too malicious there.
40: One last play for the Tigers - they sweep it left, looking for an opening but with nothing doing Brooks puts it high and it was an easy take for Anthony Don who runs it over the touchline. HALFTIME.
40: We're back for the second half here as the Gold Coast Titans take residence in the northern end of Leichhardt waiting for the kick-off. They are followed by the home side who emerge to a roar as they go to halfway, ready to kick-off.
41: KICK-OFF in the second half here! Richards almost did it again with the kick-off but it was knocked on by a Tiger.
42: We have a Tiger down currently after being buckled over in a tackle. The news though is worse for Albert Kelly who has been taken to hospital.
44: VIDEO REFEREE: After more rebounds than a recently single male Blake Austin is claiming one.
45: TRY WESTS TIGERS
Scored by Tim Simona. Kick to come.
GREEN LIGHTS..TRY! It was Tim Simona sorry who claimed the four pointer - well to sum the play up Blake Austin's initial kick was deflected into no man's land allowing the interchange player to kick it again force Gordon to kick it right into the path of Tim Simona who is Johnny on the spot.
45: SUCCESSFUL CONVERSION WESTS TIGERS
Conversion attempt by Pat Richards successful.
Pat Richards in his own style puts it through with a hooking kick.
49: UNFORCED ERROR WESTS TIGERS
Blake Austin makes an unforced error.
Tigers were prying and prying for the penalty there but the Titans rose to the challenge forcing Austin to knock it on.
49: PENALTY Titans - Bodene Thompson is pinged for a dangerous tackle on Aidan Sezer.
51: UNFORCED ERROR WESTS TIGERS
Liam Fulton makes an unforced error.
Liam Fulton is jammed in a tackle by the debutant, Cody Nelson forcing a knock on.
53: TRY GOLD COAST TITANS
Scored by Greg Bird. Kick to come.
Aidan Sezer once again the architect for a Titans scoring play. He put in a scuffed grubber that went right into the path of Greg Bird who dived over in front of Kurtis Rowe.
54: SUCCESSFUL CONVERSION GOLD COAST TITANS
Conversion attempt by Greg Bird successful.
Bird steps up to convert his own try puts it straight over the black dot.
56: Sezer launched one high for Gordon to take similar to his namesake in the Sharks game yesterday. He wasn't able to free the arms and was tackled by Simona. Changeover.
57: UNFORCED ERROR WESTS TIGERS
Braith Anasta makes an unforced error.
It just isn't there for the Tigers tonight - Anasta now with a knock on.
58: VIDEO REFEREE: Referee is calling a TRY, we're checking obstruction, touchline and the put down.
58: RED LIGHTS..NO TRY! Everything else was fine but Don caught a piece of the touchline.. so it was chalked off.
60: PENALTY Tigers - Facial being yelled out by the referee.
60: PENALTY Tigers - Ryan James pinged for an infringement in the play the ball.
61: VIDEO REFEREE: Upstairs - Fulton is claiming one.. referee is claiming a knock on.
61: RED LIGHTS..NO TRY! Liam Fulton dived slightly early, knocking it on. It was ineffective set from the Tigers throughout.
63: PENALTY Titans - Tigers double dipped after Dave Taylor hit the ground.. You never double dip.
65: PENALTY Titans - caught him a tough high there. Titans will be in position to put this game away so they point to the posts again.
65: UNSUCCESSFUL PENALTY GOAL GOLD COAST TITANS
Penalty goal attempt by Greg Bird unsuccessful.
Greg Bird with the kick, about thirty metres out.. hooks it wide.
67: PENALTY Titans - Put that one down to the pressure they exerted on last tackle.. they forced the Tigers to touch it in an offside position.
70: UNFORCED ERROR WESTS TIGERS
Tim Simona makes an unforced error.
Not what the Tigers needed as they tried to get back into this.. a knock on from Simona at the scrum.
71: SIX MORE for the visitors here.. as the pass was knocked down.
72: UNFORCED ERROR WESTS TIGERS
Sitaleki Akauola makes an unforced error.
Tigers are just looking forward to the full-time siren now, they have dropped off here.
74: Suuuper catch that - Paul Carter looks like he was more comfortable in the Australian slip cordon than a rugby league field with that catch.
76: PENALTY Tigers - Paul Carter is put ON REPORT for a dangerous tackle. Followed by another PENALTY shortly after.. again for the high tackle. Tempers flaring late on here.
77: Kurtis Rowe slides one through earning a repeat set for the home side to post some consolation points.
78: Dave Taylor now with a slips catch.. WHAT WAS HE DOING BACK THERE! Now he takes the tap as well!
80: Tigers try to put some razzle dazzle on in the last few moments but David Mead is there to clean up.
80: FULL-TIME A gritty and industrious win for the Titans here.