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The Gold Coast Titans have started their 2012 campaign in the right manner with an upset 18-0 victory over an exceptionally error-riddled North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville.
In a match where neither team set the world on fire, last year's wooden spooners proved slightly more competent against an opposition that seemed intent on making every possible error in the book - remarkably the Cowboys finished with a staggering 27 mistakes in total.
Speaking on FoxSports after the match, North Queensland captain Johnathon Thurston gave a brutally honest account of his side's performance.
"Disgraceful wasn't it for a first grade footy side. It's the worst game as a whole we've ever played. It's disgraceful [considering] a good crowd rolled out," he said.
Titans' new recruit Jamal Idris proved his worth by grabbing a double, while fellow off season additions Nate Myles and Luke Douglas provided plenty of starch in the pack.
The calm and collected showing of rookie five-eighth Jordan Rankin will also give coach John Cartwright a welcome dose of optimism and confidence that's he's finally found the right man to fill the troublesome number six jersey.
Earlier, North Queensland co-captain Matthew Scott set the tone for an mistake-filled first half with a dropped ball in the very first play the ball of the match.
The Titans made them pay for their early mistakes thanks to Idris, who pounced on a well-disguised short-side grubber kick from halfback Scott Prince to give the visitors a 4-nil lead.
Both sides stuttered their way through the remainder of half as the match lurched from one unattractive error to another - a mistake occurred every 2.1 minutes with the Cowboys in particular seemingly determined to knock on at every opportunity.
Despite a more-than-healthy share of possession, Gold Coast only took a slender 6-nil lead into halftime courtesy of a penalty goal in the 35th minute.
In stunning fashion, the Cowboys started the second stanza in the same vein as the first with a mistake in their initial play the ball. Their two subsequent sets of six were equally shambolic - Thurston kicked out on the full before a sleepy Ray Thompson threw a forward pass from dummy half.
Surprisingly, the home team managed to string together some sustained pressure but the Titans' goal line defence held strong and they rebounded when a Rankin bomb found it's way into the hands of winger Steve Michael.
Another two points via a second penalty goal stretched their lead. Idris then sealed victory when he crashed over courtesy of sheer size and brute strength and a well disguised pass from Matt Srama in the lead up play.
After a last-place finish in 2011, the Titans will be relieved to start the season on the front foot while North Queensland have some serious regrouping to do ahead of their blockbuster against the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium next Friday night.
North Queensland Cowboys 0 were defeated by Gold Coast Titans 18
National Rugby League - Round 1 - Saturday March 3, 2012 9:30pm
Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium
Referee: Steve Lyons and Alan Shortall
Video Referee: Chris Ward
Touch Judges: Dan Eastwood and Michael Wise
Halftime: North Queensland Cowboys 0 Gold Coast Titans 6
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Scott Prince (1 Conversion, 2 Penalty Goals)
2 Points - Luke Bailey
1 Point - Matt Srama
North Queensland Cowboys (0)
Gold Coast Titans (18)
Tries: Steve Michaels, Jamal Idris (2)
Conversions: Scott Prince (1/3)
Penalty Goals: Scott Prince (2/2)
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Welcome to Dairy Farmers Stadium for this evening's clash between Gold Coast and North Queensland. Expecting big things from this match tonight, the Titans have some impressive trial form and new signings Jamal Idris, Nate Myles and Luke Douglas should add plenty of starch. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are always an exciting prospect at home - the combination of Thurston and Bowen will again be the highlight.
It will also be the first round one match without any rain!
Under 20s NYC went the way of the Cowboys 34-26.
Cowboys: Brent Tate is out injured, his spot in the backline is taken by Moses Pangai. James Segeyaro and Jason Taumalolo are both out of the squad, their places on the interchange are filled by new signing Robert Lui and backrower Joel Reithmuller.
Titans: As per programme.
1 min: Kick off! We are underway in Townsville, Cowboys get first use of the ball and will run left to right.
1 min: Well, Matthew Scott drops the ball cold in the first play the ball. He was after a penalty but none was forthcoming - Titans now hot on the attack.
3 min: A comedy of errors there, Steve Michaels allows a bomb to bounce and then fumbles forward. Ash Graham scoops up the ball and makes a sprint for the corner but is pushed towards the sideline and throws the ball forward.
5 min: Video referee! Possible Titans try..
5 min: TRY
Gold Coast TRY
Scott Prince grubbers down the lefthand short side, the Cowboys fullback and wingers are nowhere to be seen and big Jamal Idris gets there first to plant the ball in the corner! Prince fails to convert.
Gold Coast Titans 4-0
7 min: Now Titans hooker Kayne Lawton splits the Cowboys down the middle and races away downfield - they're in all sorts of trouble at the moment!
10 min: North Queensland put some razzle dazzle together on the sixth tackle but it ends in ordinary fashion when Ash Graham knocks on.
13 min: Errors from both teams dominating the game now, some very frantic footy on show at the moment.
15 min: Here's a stat that sums it up.. the Cowboys have had six sets but are yet to complete one.
17 min: Now a mistake from the Titans, Jamal Idris wrestles and shakes to get his arm free before passing back to Mark Minichiello, who drops it under pressure. Silly offload there.
20 min: Cowboys defend their line stoutly for two sets in a row but as soon as they get the ball back they promtly knock on and give it straight back to the opposition. They're doing well to only trail by four points.
25 min: Matty Bowen fields a bomb on the full in the ingoal and races back to take a quick tap - that seems to have breathed life into the crowd. A penalty helps them into Titans' territory - the tide could be turning.
27 min: An odd play on the last from the Cowboys - they give a short ball to Dallas Johnson of all people and guess what? He knocks on.
30 min: Scott Prince calms things down a bit and finds touch about two metre out from the Cowboys line. Both teams need to just take a moment and compose themselves, no doubt that'll be the halftime message from both coaches.
33 min: An interesting change for North Queensland, Ray Thompson is now playing dummy half with Robert Lui on the field at halfback.
34 min: Scott Prince stays down after being hit in an apparent high tackle after kicking, replays show Gavin Cooper swung his arm but hit him in the upper arm not the head. Perhaps an academy award there for Prince?
35 min: PENALTY GOAL
Gold Coast PENALTY GOAL
Scott Prince slots an extra two after receiving a penalty for a late challenge on the kicker.
Gold Coast Titans 6-0
39 min: North Queensland press on the Titans line. The raid looks promising until a low pass is fumbled, the bench players look on in anguish.
Halftime: The term 'error-riddled' is an understatement for the match here in Townsville. North Queensland have fumbled 13 times, while the Titans have chimed in with 6 mistakes of their own - works out to an error every 2.1 minutes for those interested. But considering how poor they've been, the Cowboys have done well to only concede one try, which came via a kick to Idris.
Prediction for the second half? Cowboys look as if they have more attacking footy in them, as long as they hold the ball of course.
41 min: Back underway at Dairy Farmers Stadium. No doubt the message from the sheds was 'hold the ball!'.
42 min: First touch in the second half for the Cowboys and Moses Pangai drops it in the play the ball!
45 min: And guess what happens in the Cowboys second set? Johnathan Thurston kicks out on the full, they're offering this to the Titans on a platter but the visitors can't quite capitalise.
46 min: And just in case there was an error the Cowboys hadn't made.. Ray Thompson throws a forward pass from dummy half. Ridiculous.
50 min: North Queensland earn a repeat set thanks to a grubber from Matt Bowen - first chance all match they've had to build some pressure.
52 min: Johnathan Thurston ducks and weaves and goes within inches of scoring! Gold Coast defend well on their own line - they deny the Cowboys but now must work their way out of trouble.
56 min: Video referee! Possible Titans try..
56 min: TRY
Gold Coast TRY
Jordan Rankin bombs high to the wing, Ash Graham flies high but spills the ball - he's had his share of the fumbles tonight - and it bounces straight into the arms of Steve Michaels. He then pushes through two tackles to score. Scott Prince converts.
Gold Coast Titans 12-0
59 min: PENALTY GOAL
Gold Coast PENALTY GOAL
Another penalty for a late challenge on a kicker, Scott Prince elects to take the two and slots it down the middle.
Gold Coast Titans 14-0
63 min: Cowboys starting to make easy metres through the ruck, very humid conditions. We could see the game start to open up a little.
65 min: A knock on at the scrum base for the Cowboys ten metres out from their own line. 12/31 completions tonight.
68 min: Consecutive penalties now to North Queensland. They're going to need a miracle from here on in though.
69 min: Antonio Winterstein tries to barge over out wide but Titans defenders come from everywhere to push him back - despite the Cowboys poor form, the Titans have held them at bay quite well.
71 min: Another absolute clanger from the Cowboys.. Ashton Sims decides to face the sideline and play the ball.
74 min: TRY
Gold Coast TRY
Jamal Idris grabs his double! Matt Srama throws a crafty to pass to Idris, who is too big and too strong close to the line. Scott Prince fails to convert.
Gold Coast Titans 18-0
77 min: North Queensland spin it wide inside their own half, it gets out to the wing and Moses Pangai does what his team has done all night and drops the ball.
Fulltime: Considering they've been training since November, that was a staggeringly poor showing from the Cowboys - 27 errors in total. The Titans didn't set the world on fire either but they did enough to cause an upset. A good confidence boosting win too after finishing last in 2011.