Gold Coast 14 Brisbane 10
Controversial ... Luke Bailey scores an eight point try in the Titans' gutsy win against the more fancied Broncos. Photo: Getty Images
AFTER his side was left clinging to its top-four place by a thread, Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin last night tipped Gold Coast to seriously challenge for a stunning finals appearance.
A rare eight-point try helped the Titans - who lost five of their first six games this season - to a 14-10 victory over the Broncos, who lost star centre Justin Hodges for up to three weeks due to hamstring and ankle injuries and had Ben Te'o and Josh Hoffman booked in the process.
Wins to Cronulla and South Sydney this weekend would dump the Broncos from the top four.
But it's the ground being made up by the Titans at the edge of the top eight that is equally dramatic. Last night's victory moved them on to the same rung of the competition ladder as the Warriors and St George Illawarra - just one win outside the eight.
"They can," Griffin said when asked whether Gold Coast could make a late-season charge. "They're a very good side. I've been watching them for a while now, and they've been building their performances. They started slow. They were always going to have their best one tonight. They had to have it.
"We prepared for it and spoke about it but we weren't really prepared, when it came to the crunch, to do anything about it."
The crucial play came 18 minutes from full-time, when Titans prop Luke Bailey crossed for a try and fullback Hoffman came across in cover, striking Bailey in the head as he attempted to punch the ball loose.
Prince, who converted the try and then kicked the penalty goal from in front for an eight-point advantage, thought the decision as "touch and go" before joking: "It was pretty obvious. We know Bails's head looks like a ball … if that's what you're trying to get at … nice and shiny."
Te'o was booked for an earlier challenge on Bailey. "When that happened, [Bailey] got up and patted the bloke on the back of the head," Gold Coast coach John Cartwright said. "After he scored that try, he wasn't happy. For him to do that, something must have happened in the tackle."
Griffin had no doubt the call was correct. "I'll go with the call - he whacked him in the head," he said. "I don't know if it was deliberate or not. Certainly, I'm not sitting here thinking that's the reason we lost.''
Griffin was adamant, however, that Hoffman should not be suspended. "He didn't go in there to whack the bloke in the head … I think common sense would prevail there, hopefully."
GOLD COAST 14 (D Mead L Bailey tries S Prince 3 goals) bt BRISBANE 10 (C Norman B Hunt try C Parker goal) at Skilled Park. Referees: Alan Shortall, Jared Maxwell. Crowd: 20,067