It's not often a team ends a controversial fortnight with a much-needed victory when it's still only March. But that's what the Raiders did last night after coach David Furner faced speculation about his position and was then embroiled in a slanging match with Melbourne's Craig Bellamy. "The stuff about the job, I'm not concerned about that. I know it's about winning," Furner told The Sun-Herald after the second-half shutout of Gold Coast. As for the "chin strap" debate, Furner insisted he was now "interested in talking about footy". He said he took great pride in the debut of teenage winger Jack Wighton. Prop David Shillington said: "Furnsy handled it well - he stuck up for his players, we wanted to make referees aware of certain tackling techniques that we all know about. Then he put it to bed."
The Raiders enjoyed a Josh Dugan-inspired purple patch early - he scored himself in the 11th minute, then landed a 40-20 immediately afterwards. When Wighton tapped the ball down to centre Jarrod Croker for his 20th-minute score, the men with the viking insignia were indeed pillaging. But a superb example of hot potato football put Gold Coast's Jordan Rankin over for his first NRL try at 32 minutes and then the resurgent Scott Prince threw the pass for Dominique Peyroux to cross - before the skipper landed a sideline conversion to make it 12-12 for the break. The Raiders had a bit too much spark after that, though, with Joel Thompson and Croker crossing the stripe.
WHAT THE GAME TOLD US ABOUT THE TITANS
Prince is far from a spent force. The captain was deeply involved in both first half tries to the Coasters. Jamal Idris? "We knew that if we got to him with the ball and in attack, we could tire him out," Terry Campese said. "He's not used to the heat either."
WHAT THE GAME TOLD US ABOUT THE RAIDERS
Whether the Raiders are still heartbreak kids will not be determined on a sweltering Gold Coast evening in March. But there was a confidence and assurance about Canberra yesterday that seemed to be lacking in recent years. When Dugan went close in the first half, there was calmness and methodology rather than panic. They scored seconds later. Campese finished in the sin bin for a professional foul and said: "I just told him I was buggered and needed a rest."
WHAT THE TITANS SAID
"When you look at your draw and you figure out the games you should win," coach John Cartwright said, "[this] was definitely one we thought we should win."
WHAT THE RAIDERS SAID
''There's a lot of commitment there in defence,'' Furner said. ''Second half … we had a shutout. No points. That was a credit to the players.''
THE WEEK AHEAD
Gold Coast winger David Mead has a suspected broken jaw - he's a try-hound who will be missed profoundly. The crowd of 11,378 was disappointing considering it was the first home game of the season for a club coming off an upset away victory in round one. Idris did not put as many bums on seats as he was supposed to and the tourist strip's sports market continues to confound. They host Melbourne next Saturday. The Raiders will be confident against the Roosters in Sydney the following day.
CANBERRA 24 (J Croker 2 J Dugan J Thompson tries J Croker 4 goals) bt GOLD COAST 12 (D Peyroux J Rankin tries S Prince 2 goals) at Skilled Park. Referee: Steve Lyons, Alan Shortall. Crowd: 11,378.