Rugby League

Gold Coast Titans take out Canterbury Bulldogs in heart-warming display of courage

Where no game existed, suddenly a golden-point thriller emerged. The match between the Gold Coast and Canterbury on Sunday afternoon started out as one of those round-26 matches where little hinged on the result.

The Bulldogs came into the clash knowing they had big semi-final matches ahead regardless of whether they won or lost. The Titans, in 15th position, having won two of their past 15, could have been excused for already having their minds on the trip away.

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Titans clinch golden-point win over Bulldogs

The Gold Coast Titans ended their season on a high with a golden-point win over the Bulldogs.

Certainly the first half was played as though the Bulldogs were looking to fine-tune finals form and the home side were  struggling to put any quality football together whatsoever.

The Dogs led 18-0 at half-time and were totally in control during the first 40 minutes. At times it looked like a training gallop as they rolled through their plays with little opposition from the Titans defence.

Key to anything outstanding in attack was five-eighth Josh Reynolds, who adds spark every time he touches the ball. It was his cross-field running and taunting of the defence line that produced the first two tries for the Bulldogs.

Reynolds is a livewire. He plays mainly on heart and determination but there is also a thinker in there as he schemes his way around the field. His inside passes to Josh Jackson and Tim Lafai in consecutive sets bamboozled the Titans defenders and opened them up with clean linebreaks down the middle of the field.

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The rest of the Bulldogs side really looked to be warming to something. Their big forwards were dominating the advantage line, hooker and dummy-half Michael Ennis was revelling in the extra time and space at his disposal and the Dogs were able to introduce their trademark passing game as the ball was pushed from sideline to sideline in sweeping plays.

The Bulldogs defence was sound enough but it's fair to say that during the first half it was hardly tested by the Gold Coast attacking game.

Outstanding in attack: The efforts of Josh Reynolds enabled the Bulldogs' first two tries.
Outstanding in attack: The efforts of Josh Reynolds enabled the Bulldogs' first two tries. Photo: Getty Images

The Titan boys looked slow and laborious. For the most part their attacking structures were disorganised. There appeared to be little direction during their sets of six. To be honest, by the time both teams headed to the dressing rooms for a half-time drink, you could have been  excused for thinking the Dogs could win by as many as they wanted.

Part two of this drama did not play out the way most people anticipated. The Gold Coast are a hardy bunch. At their best they are always a difficult side to beat. 

However, the back end of this season has been anything but pleasant for the coaches, players and fans. Given the way they played in the first half, there was even less expectation that something miraculous might happen before their season ended.

It's a funny game, rugby league. The young Titans players on nothing more than grit and courage, lifted themselves to get back in the contest.

There was nothing really scientific to their work but they charged onto the ball, letting the Bulldogs know they weren't going to go away without a fight.

The Dogs were obviously hoping for a softer second half and their minds had already wandered to the big games ahead.

They were not ready for the Titans' comeback. Gold Coast produced four second-half tries and had their goalkicking been straighter, the result would have been over before needing to go to extra time to determine a winner.

The football gods smiled on the Titans and pushed the field-goal attempt from fullback William Zillman straight between the posts. The Dogs players flopped to the ground more out of frustration than  exhaustion and the Titans' players gathered in a celebratory huddle in a lovely way to end their season.

It wasn't a classic match of rugby league by any standards but you always leave a football ground with a great feeling in your heart when you witness a courageous comeback and a golden-point victory to the battling underdogs.

Well done, Titans.

The Bulldogs? Really nothing hinged on this result and I suspect they will quickly put this behind them and direct their attention to next weekend's first round of semi-finals.

There is no doubt they have the muscle and the style of game to win big end-of-season games. They still have some injury concerns and big second-rower Tony Williams will have his eye on the video review committee's report sometime today.

The home and away competition has ended. A new competition starts. Let the finals begin.

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