Loss sends Canberra from comfort zone to danger zone
Pulled up short ... David Shillington tried to break through the Titans' line. Photo: Rohan Thomson
WORLD beaters one week, cannon fodder the next.
Canberra's consistency issues reared their ugly head again after they produced one of their most disappointing efforts of the year in a 38-26 loss to Gold Coast at Canberra Stadium yesterday. After clinical back-to-back wins, including last week's 40-12 upset in Melbourne, the Raiders were heavy favourites to notch a third straight victory.
Bubble burst ... Raiders' Joel Thompson after the loss. Photo: Rohan Thomson
But some Raiders fans in the 8240 crowd booed the players at half-time after the Titans racked up a 22-4 lead, and many headed to the turnstiles well before the match was over.
It was the lowest home attendance since 6500 watched the Raiders thrash the Panthers 74-12 in round 22, 2008.
The Raiders only avoided the blowout they deserved through an ordinary goal-kicking day from Gold Coast halfback Scott Prince (three from eight attempts) and three late Canberra tries.
Running away with it ... Raiders' Reece Robinson trys to stop William Zillman from scoring. Photo: Rohan Thomson
They were never in the hunt as the Titans ran in eight tries to five thanks to a big two-try game from former Canberra fullback William Zillman, prop Luke Bailey (184 metres) and strong efforts from halves Aidan Sezer and Prince.
The loss is a savage blow to Canberra's finals hopes. The Raiders could have moved to within just two points of the top eight with a win.
Canberra began well enough when a short pass from fullback Reece Robinson found straight-running centre Blake Ferguson, who scored in the third minute. But from there it was all the Titans, who continually exposed poor defence on both edges.
Titans hammer hapless Raiders
Joel Thompson show his disappointment after the loss. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Afterwards, Raiders coach David Furner stopped short of saying his side were overconfident or complacent. But Canberra clearly have mentality issues they need to resolve after again failing to perform in a game they were expected to win.
Their fans must be tearing their hair out - their side can beat the competition leaders on the road, but fail to beat the Titans at home.
''I don't know if that first try by us was a good thing because I think we felt it [the win] was just going to happen,'' Furner said. ''We had two good wins and we have a habit of not starting well after those, [we get] a little bit comfortable.''
Armed … Luke O'Dwyer tackles Blake Ferguson. Photo: Getty Images
Raiders skipper David Shillington was unsure whether his side had put the cart before the horse.
''I don't know if we got ahead of ourselves, it's hard to say,'' Shillington said. ''The thing that's won us the last two games has been our completions, which have been around 80-85 per cent [yesterday's was 73 per cent] and once again our on-line defence was really poor. As captain I have to lead by example, Furnsey gave me a spray at half-time about getting up and getting the boys forward off the line.''
Shillington described the team being booed by its own fans as ''obviously not good''.
''I was pretty excited about our momentum the last couple of weeks and our intention was to have a good win for our home fans and give them something to cheer about after a tough 18 months,'' he said.
Raiders second-rower Josh Papalii left the field late in the match with a knee injury, but the club is confident he has only suffered a cork and bone bruising. Sezer will also have scans after also failing to complete the game with an injured hand.
Gold Coast coach John Cartwright said they were inspired by the courage of returning forwards Bailey and Nate Myles, both outstanding despite carrying injuries.
GOLD COAST 38 (Steve Michaels 2, William Zillman 2, Beau Falloon, Kevin Gordon, Luke Douglas, Luke O’Dwyer tries; Scott Prince 3 goals)
CANBERRA 26 (Blake Ferguson, Sam Williams, Jarrod Croker, Reece Robinson, Joel Thompson tries; Croker 3 goals). Crowd: 8240.