The Cowboys have given their legendary skipper Johnathan Thurston the farewell he deserved in his final ever appearance as a football player. It was a game of 2 halves, as the Cows overcame a 12 point halftime deficit to overhaul the Titans, in what was a thoroughly entertaining and high-scoring encounter. This victory means that the Titans have been leapfrogged by the Cowboys on the NRL ladder. Although the Titans were the home side, the atmosphere generated by the raucous capacity crowd suggested that the Cowboys that had the majority of support. The future is definitely bright for the Titans, however they will need to continue to work on their consistency, if they are to feature prominently in future finals matches. Here are five things we learned from the match:
1 A game of 2 halves
The first half saw the Titans open the scoring in the 7th minute, when rookie sensation Alex Brimson burst through the Cowboys defence, to plant the ball down for a try. The man from the holiday strip were in again after 15 minutes, when Kane Elgey put in a grubber kick, before eventually grounding the ball. As such, the Titans found themselves 12-0 up, after Ash Taylor landed his 2nd conversion attempt. The Cowboys narrowed the deficit to 6 points, when departing interchange forward Shaun Fensom scored a try underneath the goalposts, which man of the moment Johnathan Thurston would convert. That try came off the back of JT winning possession back for his team, when he applied a bone-rattling tackle on Titans skipper Ryan James. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, their good work would be undone, when Titans interchange Mitch Rein dummied his way over from dummy half. Some could even say that the Titans should have been further ahead, but they were deserving of their lead.
After trailing 18-6 at halftime, the Cows wasted minimal time getting back into the match, through a converted Ben Hampton try. The Titans would then extend their lead, through an Ash Taylor penalty goal. The Cowboys narrowed the deficit once again, when Hampton scooped up a John Asiata offload to score his 2nd try. Thurston would convert the try, to narrow the deficit to a solitary goal. The men from the tropics would continue to pile on the pressure on the Titans’ defence, with the lion’s share of possession, and were duly rewarded after 70 minutes, through a converted Gavin Cooper try. The try by Cooper sees him become the 1st ever forward to score in 9 consecutive games, and put his team in front for the first time. The Titans’ attempts to regain the lead backfired, as Ash Taylor saw his cut out pass intercepted by Gideon Gela-Mosby, who raced away to score a converted underneath the posts, which further extended the Cows’ lead to 30-20. The Titans would score a late try through Brenko Lee, to set up an interesting finish, but the Cowboys comfortably held on, to end their disappointing season on a positive note, as they claimed successive victories for the first time this year.
2 Cowboys leapfrog Titans on the ladder
Prior to this match, the Titans were sitting directly above the Cowboys in 13th position, courtesy of winning one more match. However, they had a vastly inferior points differential to the Cows. This meant that they needed to win this match, in order to ensure that they finish above their opponents at season’s end. Moreover, the loser of this match would be regarded as Queensland’s worst team for the season. Given the Titans found themselves in that position far too many times, they had even greater motivation to win this match.
The opening half suggested they were up for the challenge, as they ambushed the Cowboys, to starve them of possession, and take an 18-16 halftime lead. Unfortunately, they were unable to carry their momentum in the second half, as the Cows made their enormous possession rate count. As such, the men from the tropics overhauled their neighbours from the glitter strip, to finish their season on a high, and overtake them on the ladder. This meant that despite spending the majority of the season placed below their fellow Queenslanders, the Cowboys avoid being classed as the worst team in the sunshine state for the year.
The Titans find themselves in that unenviable position, despite the improvement they have shown from last season. This shows that while football can sometimes be a really cruel game, every win and loss proves vital by the end of the season, regardless of where you are on the ladder.
3 Was this actually a Titans or Cowboys home game?!
The match was played at Cbus Super Stadium in Robina, located on the Gold Coast, meaning that the match was technically a Titans home game. However, one obvious difference between this match and most other home games for the Titans is that they would be playing in front of a sellout crowd. This is something that they rarely experience, particularly since their peak years of 2009 and 2010. As such, it was essentially unfamiliar territory for the men from the holiday strip.
The main reason for the match being a sellout is that the great Johnathan Thurston would be gracing the field for the final ever time in his illustrious career. It was quite fitting that the legendary JT would be playing his swansong match in his beloved state of Queensland, especially considering he is not only one of the sunshine state’s favourite sons, but one of the best ever players from that state. Moreover, given the Titans’ opponents were the Cowboys (a fellow Queensland team), there was always going to be a substantial amount of support for the visiting team.
However, what transpired during the match, with respect to the support of each team, suggested that the Cows had the majority of the supporters in the crowd. The volume of the cheers seemed to be louder whenever the Cowboys had scored a try, rather then when the Titans scored their tries. Moreover, despite being the star halfback for the home side, Ash Taylor found himself being booed by the crowd as he lined up for a shot at penalty goal in the 2nd half. As such, one could be forgiven for thinking that the game was a Cowboys home game, and not that of the Titans.
4 Future is bright for the Titans
They may have lost the match, but no one can accuse the Titans of not having a fair crack at the Cowboys, particularly in the 1st half. With all the attention inevitably on the retiring JT, this was the Titans’ opportunity to fly under the radar. And they went about spoiling the great man’s farewell, by ambushing and rattling the Cowboys, while owning the lion’s share of possession. Moreover, the men from the holiday strip were able to prevent most of the minimal attacks by the Cowboys, to deservedly lead at halftime.
However, the 2nd stanza saw a different Titans outfit, as the Cowboys wasted no time working their way back into the match. Whilst the Titans went about extending their lead through a penalty goal, it only served to spur the Cowboys on. As such, it was the Titans’ turn to be starved of possession, and it would prove telling, as the Cowboys continued their momentum to eventually take the lead in the 70th minute, before extending their lead even further, a few minutes later. The Titans would score a late try to give themselves a slight sniff of victory, but it merely proved to be a consolation try. It begs the question as to whether they should have gone for the try when awarded that penalty in the second half, rather than go for goal.
As such, the Titans had nothing to show for their obvious efforts to improve on last season, as they finished in the same position as last year. However, they have shown what they are capable of doing, especially with the likes of youngsters Alex Brimson, Phillip Sami and Brenko Lee in their ranks. Brimson in particular showed us in this match what he is capable of, and if he carries that form going forward, he will be a terror to opposition defences in years to come. This match also demonstrated the need to develop consistency among their playing group for future seasons, if they are to be regular finals participants.
5 Johnathan Thurston gets his deserved farewell
Last week, Johnathan Thurston was given a sensational farewell in his final appearance in front of his adoring fans in Townsville, as his team put the Eels to the sword. As such, he was definitely eager to keep that momentum going in his final ever match as a player, to will his side over the line for a final win for the season, as well as for himself. And he was given a rousing reception onto Cbus Super Stadium, by both sets of fans, as well as by many other people, including his family and great mate Cameron Smith.
However, things weren’t going according to the script in the opening half, as the Titans seemed intent to spoil the party. The men from the holiday strip rattled the Cowboys, while starving them of possession, and were duly rewarded with a 12-0 lead. It was rather ironic that the proposed applause in the 7th minute for JT would come directly after his team had conceded the opening try. But as anyone would expect from JT, he inspired his team with a bell-ringer of a tackle on Ryan James, and they duly scored from the ensuing plays. Unfortunately, they would find themselves facing a 12 point halftime deficit, as the Titans scored just before halftime to halt the Cowboys’ momentum.
That, along with a rev-up from coach Paul Green, only seemed to spur the Cowboys into action, as they quickly narrowed the deficit once again. The deficit would be further narrowed to a single goal 12 minutes later. The man of the moment would lay another bone rattling tackle, this time it was on his opposing half and potential representative successor, Ash Taylor. He would be influential in snatching the lead for his team, when he placed an overhead kick, which good mate Gavin Cooper plucked out of the air and scored. The win was essentially sealed through an intercept try, despite conceding a late try to the Titans.
As such, the legendary JT was given the send off that he deserved, and was presented with a framed indigenous Titans jersey by opposing skipper Ryan James. He was then afforded another opportunity to say his goodbyes to the adoring rugby league public, before doing a lap of honour and being given a guard of honour from both teams. Whilst there is no doubt there will be an abundance of quality players to come and go, it is highly doubtful that we will see anyone as sensational as the great man for a lengthy amount of time, if at all.
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