Friday night’s game was one to forget for the Gold Coast Titans, not least after their co-captain was given a lecture by the referee.
Titans fans would’ve had just about enough of their side’s antics after Parramatta ran in four first half tries on Friday, and they wouldn’t have been alone.
Referee Matt Cecchin summoned Gold Coast co-captain Kevin Proctor late in the half after a particularly wasteful use of the Captain’s Challenge.
Attacking the Eels’ line with 30 seconds to play, Titans forward Tino Fa’asuamaleaui fell to his feet while attempting to play the ball, leading Cecchin to blow his whistle for a knock-on.
Proctor elected to challenge the ruling on the grounds that an Eels player had caused the lock to lose his balance.
The Bunker deliberated for a matter of seconds before ruling that no such interference had occurred.
“There’s no interference by any Parramatta player in the play, the challenge is unsuccessful,” said senior review official Alan Shortall from The Bunker.
As if losing their challenge wasn’t bad enough for the Titans, Cecchin then called Proctor over for a grilling.
“Kevin. Did you see what we all just saw then? Come on,” the incredulous referee asked.
“Be fair dinkum, mate.”
“In Twister it’d be a penalty,” Fox League’s Andrew Voss joked in commentary
“Matt Cecchin putting Kevin Proctor back in his place. He owned him there!”
It was an unhappy half for Proctor all round — not only did his side find itself behind 20-0 off the back of a Parramatta onslaught midway through the stanza, but the captain was sin-binned for a lifting tackle on Eels forward Isaiah Papali’i.
He’ll have a case to answer and could be rubbed out for next week’s clash with the Dragons.
The brave and at times electric Eels overcame the absence of two Origin stars and the ugliest of ugly tackles on Isaiah Papali’i to overpower the Gold Coast Titans and consolidate their top four position.
The Eels scored 14 points in the first half while Titans co-captain Kevin Proctor was in the sin bin for a lifting tackle, in cahoots with Patrick Herbert, that dropped Papali’i right on the top of his head.
It was fortunate that the Eels back-rower did not sustain any serious damage and was able to continue the game.
Parramatta back-rower Ryan Matterson had a 10 out of 10 performance in the 26-8 win that took the Eels momentarily into third position.
Before the game coach Brad Arthur told Fox League the upcoming matches under hardship away from home were basically a new competition and had the capacity “make or break” his side.
This one win won’t make their season but it revealed a gritty and ruthless edge to the Eels that they will need to challenge for the title.
With NSW Origin representatives Mitchell Moses and Junior Paulo both rested, it was up to the other big guns to lift an extra cog and they all did. Matterson, Dylan Brown, Reed Mahoney, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Nathan Brown and Clint Gutherson were all enormous in the opening stanza.
The Eels lost Jakob Arthur to an HIA after three minutes and it was then that Dylan Brown stood up. From the half-way line he snaffled a Matterson offload and put the foot down to burn AJ Brimson with sheer speed for an electric Eels try.
With Proctor in the sin-bin, the Eels made the Titans pay. Mahoney looked right and passed left from dummy-half to send Shaun Lane crashing over.
Mahoney started the next try from dummy-half and finished it. It was a cracker. Nathan Brown, Ryan Matterson and Clint Gutherson all supported the ball carrier before Mahoney finished a classic rugby league try.
A magical and deceptive Gutherson kick provided for Haze Dunster to scoop it up on the fly and score in the corner and the Eels led 20-0 after just 27 minutes.
Matterson scored straight after half-time to effectively put an end to the contest despite the Titans showing some fight in the second half.
“It has been a tough week and everyone’s lives have been turned upside down and we made a real point of just getting on with the job,” a proud Arthur said after the win.
“’We are so grateful that we can continue to play and we needed to show that in the first half. We started off with great intent and purpose and focus. We dropped off a bit in the second half but Gutho hadn’t trained with us all week, and to play without Junior and Mitchell takes a squad. That is what we were focusing on.
“We talked about how we have 42 people in our environment at the moment and we have all got to contribute. This this can make us tighter and this can make is stronger.”
The all-round game of Matterson was of the highest class and it is hard to think of the 26-year-old having a better game.
By half-time, he had two try assists, four offloads and had made 17 tackles, including a try saver on a charging Tino Fa’asuamaleaui centimetres from the line.
With offload king Paulo missing it was on Matterson to make an extra contribution in that department and he delivered when it counted.
In the process, he gave his opposite number David Fifita a complete bath. Fifita was hooked in the first half by coach Justin Holbrook and was hardly sighted.
Arthur said he challenged Nathan Brown and Matterson to step up and they delivered.
“Matto and Browny, I challenged them,” Arthur said.
“They needed to be the senior leaders without the other [Origin players] here the last two weeks and they have been unreal during the week. Because they prepared well and were committed I thought they were very good for us
“They had their moments but I think it was all about their attitude to step up, be the leaders and take control.”
Mahoney had spent a month on the sidelines with a shoulder injury but returned to provide a timely reminder of his class and energy.
He often deceived the Titans by looking one way and passing the other and the Eels made plenty of inroads on the back of it.
The fixture was always going to be a danger game for the Eels if the Titans got a roll-on but Mahoney played a big part in snuffing that out with his trademark defensive steel.
Titans in trouble
Proctor will have a nervous wait for the charge sheet to come out on Saturday and so will Herbert.
The Titans co-captain was the instigator of the dangerous tackle on Papali’i before Herbert joined in to tip Papali’i over.
Fox League’s Greg Alexander noted that the lifting style of tackle was “creeping back into the game” and needed to be cracked down on.
It was a horror night all round for the Titans with Phil Sami (leg) and Jamal Fogarty (hand) both leaving the field with injuries.
Coach Justin Holbrook didn’t believe Proctor should have been sin-binned.
“We’re playing a game of variables,” Holbrook said.
“No-one wants to see it but they can get out of hand without anyone trying to do anything dangerous. Those things happen in our game unfortunately.”
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