Gold Coast were the first competition leaders in 60 years to have a negative points differential. The script said they weren’t destined to stay there long.
And things were going to script for most of last night’s southern Queensland derby, in front of 20,524 fans, many of who had stayed away from Robina since the club’s property division went bust two years ago.
Then a bomb was launched into the night sky, Broncos fullback Ben Barba was baulked by the posts and let it bounce before attempting to retrieve it, and Titans five-eighth Aiden Sezer stole it from him to score the winning try.
There were still seven minutes left; it wasn’t until Justin Hodges fumbled with 90 seconds remaining that Gold Coast were assured of their first win over big brother since round 20, 2012.
Mind you, the points differential didn’t change much (-5).
With 20 minutes left at Cbus Super Stadium, Brisbane replacement Todd Lowrie lunged for a try, which – with the conversion – would have given his side a match-winning 14-0 lead, but was held up. Lowrie was held up. The Broncos had one more tackle. Ben Hunt grubbered towards in the in-goal.
In the next 30 seconds, the complexion of the derby changed. Titans fullback David Mead plucked the ball out of the air a metre from his own try line and accelerated upfield on a sizzling run to line, the din of a big crowd urging him on.
With Sezer’s conversion, the margin was two. Four minutes later, Titan Mark Minichiello grounded the ball on Barba’s foot, inches from a match-winning try.
Brisbane led 6-0 at the end of a fast-paced first half, halfback Ben Hunt posting the lone try.
The Titans received an early boost when under siege, Bronco Alex Glenn was pinged for tackling Titans winger Anthony Don in the air.
During a bizarre passage of play, Barba fumbled a bomb on his own 20m line but ended up with the ball, 70m upfield, on the next play. A wild Titans pass from the scrum win was toed ahead by the Broncos, with Barba and Albert Kelly in a foot race before the home side cleaned up at the back, Gold Coast veteran Luke Bailey was held up over the line – off a forward pass – a minute before the Hunt try.
The No.7 skipped past Dave Taylor and Albert Kelly before sending second-rower Glenn careering downfield, with Hunt backing up inside to score a try which Corey Parker converted.
Despite concerted pressure, the Titans could not equalise in the remaining 10 minutes of the first half.
‘‘We invited them back in the game,’’ Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin said. ‘‘We handed them two from kicks in the most unusual ways. It’s heart breaking for all of us.’’
Brisbane skipper Corey Parker said: ‘‘They’re number one in the comp for a reason but we did seem in control.’’
Titans coach John Cartwright praised his side’s resilience. ‘‘I’ve certainly lost a few in that situation over the years. I was worried where the points were going to come from. It was top notch stuff. You worry you’re going to run out petrol. Yhe results are fantastic. You'd rather be there than 1-5.’’
Gold Coast had led the penalty count 4-0 at half-time but within five minutes of the resumption of play, the count was 4-3.
The third of these Brisbane penalties resulted from Titans replacement Paul Carter taking Parker high. It resulted in Parker edging the Broncos further ahead, 8-0, from a goal in front.
Gold Coast’s Bailey could find himself in trouble after appearing to trip rival Justin Hodges without the ball 11 minutes into the second half.
Hodges, in his second game back from injury, appealed for a penalty but the incident was missed by match officials.