Hayne Slips, Ti­tans Fall

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Gold Coast’s stun­ning sea­son came to a con­tro­ver­sial cli­max on Fri­day night as the Ti­tans fell 44-28 to Bris­bane in a fi­nals carve-up at Sun­corp Sta­dium. The Ti­tans con­ceded just the sec­ond penalty try of the sea­son and were on the wrong end of an 8-4 penalty count in their first fi­nals ap­pear­ance since 2010. Lit­tle went the Gold Coast’s way in front of 43,170 af­ter they lost for­ward Zeb Taia (quad) in the warm-up and half­back Ash­ley Tay­lor (hip) in the first half of the elim­i­na­tion fi­nal. But it was The Bunker’s de­ci­sion to award a penalty try early in the con­test which proved cru­cial in the 13-try thriller. Ti­tans cen­tre Kon­rad Hur­rell dis­lodged the ball from Jor­dan Kahu’s grasp with his foot as he at­tempted to plant it for Bris­bane’s first try and The Bunker ruled there was no doubt Kahu would have scored if not for Hur­rell’s foul play. The de­ci­sion was so con­tro­ver­sial NRL ref­er­ees boss Tony Archer opted to pro­vide an ex­pla­na­tion of the rea­son­ing at half-time. If the Gold Coast was to pro­duce an up­set against its “big brother” they needed some luck to fall their way and there was lit­tle of that for the un­der­dogs. Nearly ev­ery mar­ginal call went against the Ti­tans as they suf­fered their 10th straight de­feat against the Bron­cos at Sun­corp Sta­dium. The Ti­tans were the sur­prise pack­ets of 2016, qual­i­fy­ing for their first fi­nals ap­pear­ance in six years de­spite start­ing the sea­son as the short­est priced wood­en­spoon favourites in NRL his­tory. Any­thing above 14th place on the lad­der could have been classed as a suc­cess­ful sea­son for the Ti­tans but coach Neil Henry man­aged to squeeze ev­ery ounce of po­ten­tial from his squad. The Bron­cos and Ti­tans’ last fi­nals meet­ing was in 2009 with Bris­bane record­ing an eerily sim­i­lar 40-32 win. Los­ing Taia be­fore kick-off was a blow but Chris McQueen got the Ti­tans off to a dream start, pounc­ing on a Corey Oates knock-on to put the Gold Coast on the board af­ter three min­utes. It didn’t take the Bron­cos long to hit back, al­beit con­tro­ver­sially, when James Roberts threw a clever pass to Kahu af­ter be­ing brought down by Jar­ryd Hayne.

Hur­rell’s left boot led to the first penalty try in a fi­nals game since the 2013 de­cider but the con­tro­versy didn’t rat­tle the Ti­tans who bounced back with a try to David Mead and found them­selves with an 18-16 lead at the break when Josh Hoff­man scored against his for­mer club. Hayne had a Ben Hunt “grand fi­nal mo­ment”, spilling the sec­ond half kick-off which al­lowed Alex Glenn to give the Bron­cos a 22-18 lead. Hayne’s knock-on was the last thing the de­pleted Ti­tans needed and they found them­selves on the back foot for the rest of the game as the Bron­cos kept their ti­tle dreams alive and ended the ca­reer of Gold Coast co-cap­tain Nathan Friend.

But it was The Bunker’s de­ci­sion to award a penalty try early in the con­test which proved cru­cial in the 13-try thriller.

Photo: Zim­bio

A de­jected Jar­ryd Hayne looks on as Bris­bane Bron­cos An­thony Mil­ford is con­grat­u­lated by his team mates last night.

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