The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

FREAKISH FIFITA NAILS KNIGHTS

Ferocious Titans brush off Newcastle

- TRAVIS MEYN

DAVID Fifita proved he is the most destructiv­e player in the NRL with a stunning hattrick as the Gold Coast Titans took a hammer to Newcastle’s premiershi­p credential­s.

Fifita bagged three tries for the first time in his NRL career as the Titans racked up a 42-16 thrashing of the hapless Knights at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Fifita was the star of the show on a stunning Gold Coast day, earning every cent of his record $3.5 million contract with a brutal performanc­e.

He brushed aside Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga, playing his first game of the year, twice as Newcastle’s premiershi­p hopes were left shattered with a third straight loss to a bottom eight team from 2020.

The Titans were too fast and ferocious for Newcastle, with Patrick Herbert and Corey Thompson scoring doubles in the eight – try rout to move the Gold Coast back into the NRL’s top eight.

Fifita has now scored six tries in only five games for the Titans and finished the match with 150m and seven tackle busts to prove he is the most dangerous player in the game.

“He is a great player and we’re using him well, even when we don’t he makes something happen anyway,” said Titans coach Justin Holbrook.

“He’s been terrific for us and there’s a lot of improvemen­t in him. He has only just turned 21. He’s going to get better.

“He is working a lot harder which is great for us.

“The more he gets involved in a game, the better he is going to be.

“It’s about being consistent week-to-week.

“I was really happy with the way we were playing. We played some really good footy straightaw­ay.

“I want us to play (expansive footy). We’ve got so much strike in our side and I want them to take it if it presents itself.”

KNIGHTS ARE CROCK STARS

THE Knights are full of players that think they are rock stars.

They swan around Newcastle like they run the town and their Instagram pages look more like that of music or movie stars than footy players.

It is an attitude that is bringing the club down given most of them haven’t won anything in the NRL.

They look more interested in podcasts, clothing labels and photo filters than learning how to defend.

Newcastle’s first half defence was near non-existent as the Titans jumped out to a 26-6 lead and they had few answers for Fifita.

The Knights were woeful with and without the ball and copped an almighty spray from coach Adam O’Brien at halftime.

“It’s hard to defend some of that performanc­e,” O’Brien said.

“We made some really poor concentrat­ion errors, schoolboy errors, and weren’t prepared to defend them.

“It was clear in the first two sets defence wasn’t our priority.

“I wouldn’t say it’s an attitude problem. Do we have a concentrat­ion problem? Yes. Do we make silly errors? Yes.

“We’re on a journey of maturity and we need to continue on that journey for as long as it takes.

“It’s not ideal (where we are after five rounds). It’s not where we want to be.”

The Knights came out with more intent in the second half but the damage was already done and there was no coming back.

They have no hope of winning this year’s NRL premiershi­p.

NEW RULE A FARCE

THE NRL’s new 18th man rule came under fire after Titans winger Phillip Sami was left concussed following a heavy shot from Tyson Frizell.

Sami was helped off the field after just six minutes following a brutal collision with Frizell which left the Titans flyer wobbling.

Frizell was penalised and placed on report by referee Ashley Klein but given he was not sin-binned or sent off the Titans were not allowed to use their 18th man – utility Beau Fermor.

That left the Titans with 16 players for the remaining 74 minutes of the match due to an act of foul play from Frizell.

The contact from Frizelle on Sami was front on, as opposed to a shoulder charge or swinging arm, which explained why he wasn’t sent from the field.

However the Gold Coast was forced into a reshuffle of their team early in the game due to a head knock, raising questions about the purpose of the NRL’s 18th man rule.

“It’s tough for the NRL, they’re looking at coaches not manipulati­ng things but nonone wants to lose a winger after five minutes,” Holbrook said.

“It’s putting too much pressure on the referee.

“That wasn’t a sin bin offence but he clearly hit the player in the head with his shoulder.

“I think (on-report should be enough to use the 18th man). Even a time period like in the first 20 minutes. It’s not for me to decide.”

showed no signs of rust as Melbourne heaped more pain on the winless Bulldogs 52-18.

Grant came off the bench after 27 minutes and made an immediate impact when he spotted no markers, skipped to his right and then fired the perfect pass to set Tui Kamikamica up for a rare try.

The celebratio­ns were put on hold for a moment after Ogden violently reacted to a pat on the head by Cameron Munster, prompting AsofaSolom­ona to retaliate with a swinging arm of his own.

“After our Tuesday session, we didn’t think Harry was going to play,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.

“He looked proppy and he wasn’t overly happy with it himself. He trained the next day and looked a whole heap better, so going from ruling him out, we went 50-50, had a day off and then came in for our last session and he was keen to play.

“There’s a lot of work and improvemen­t left in the combinatio­ns with the other players, so we can look forward to him being even more effective.”

With Cameron Smith retired and Brandon Smith set to leave the club as early as next season, Grant is the man to take the Storm into the future.

He seems a class above when he is on the field, and his partnershi­p with Brandon Smith for the rest of the year seems scary given the way they complement each other.

Smith started Saturday’s game and set up a try before he came off and apparently vomited in the sheds.

“I don’t mind the idea of starting with Brandon and then going with Harry to finish the game, but one of Harry’s great strengths is being able to play 80 minutes,” Bellamy said.

The Dogs’ Luke Thompson scored his side’s first try in

265 minutes.

STORM 52 (Josh Addo-Carr, Jahrome Hughes, Nicholas Hynes, George Jennings, Tui Kamikamica, Felise Kaufusi, Justin Olam, Ryan Papenhuyze­n, Christian Welch tries; Papenhuyze­n 8 goals) d BULLDOGS 18 (Jake Averillo, Luke Thompson, Dallin WateneZele­zniak tries; Kyle Flanagan 3 goals). Crowd: 5104 at Stadium Australia.

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 ??  ?? Titans standout David Fifita brushes past Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga in the Gold Coast’s big win over Newcastle at Cbus Super Stadium; and (inset) Titans forward Kevin Proctor scored the opening try of the rout. Pictures: Getty Images
Titans standout David Fifita brushes past Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga in the Gold Coast’s big win over Newcastle at Cbus Super Stadium; and (inset) Titans forward Kevin Proctor scored the opening try of the rout. Pictures: Getty Images
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 ??  ?? Harry Grant.
Harry Grant.

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