By STEVE MASCORD
BRISBANE coach Anthony Griffin admitted that firing up Justin Hodges was probably not the best thing Gold Coast did in last night’s southern Queensland derby.
In his comeback from hamstring injury, the Australia centre had made just five runs when he became involved in a dispute with Gold Coast co-captain Greg Bird right on halftime.
Seconds later, Bird caught Broncos winger Lachlan Maranta high – resulting in his being placed on report – and Hodges rushed in to defend him. Hodges went on to double his workload in the second half and scored the try that guaranteed the Broncos their 32-12 win.
“They didn’t need to stir him up there – he went to another level in the second half,” Griffin said after his side’s second win of the year.
“He came up with that great tackle on Bird, which I thought was his best play of the night.”
Captain Alex Glenn, filling in for Sam Thaiday who was suspended for touching a referee, added: “He is just one of those players who looks after his team-mates.
“That’s just what he was doing for his winger out there.”
Titans coach John Cartwright said of the confrontation: “It’s good to see two guys having a go at it. Neither of them are going to back down, are they?”
In form Gold Coast went into the derby seeking a fourth consecutive win for the first time in three seasons, and were favourites to do it, while Brisbane’s season remained dangerously close to receiving an early reading of the last rights.
But the Titans missed their late withdrawal, five-eighth Aiden Sezer (ankle), more than Brisbane struggled without their controversially suspended captain, Sam Thaiday.
And in losing, Cartwright’s side may have done more damage to its halves firepower with Albert Kelly – the scorer of a spectacular early try – forced off with a knee injury suffered trying to prevent a 72nd minute Andrew McCullough try.
The Broncos, with just one win in their opening four games, trailed by two at halftime but wore their neighbours down before finishing with a flourish, centre Justin Hodges scoring in the 67th minute and his rake burrowing over not long afterwards.
Replacement Nick Slyney’s touchdown came seconds before the siren.
The first stanza was an entertaining, open affair – an approach best exemplified by the exhilarating opening try.
From 65 metres out, Kelly beat a couple of defenders, chipped ahead and overcame a terrible bounce to touch down with his right hand before the ball richocheted free. Video referees Bernard Sutton and Justin Morgan confirmed the try and stand-in goalkicker Bird goaled for 6-0.
There was plenty of speed and guile in the Broncos’ response, which came six minutes later.
Corey Norman, Jack Reed and Hoffman were all involved in a 60 metre movement which finished with halfback Peter Wallace scoring near the posts. Despite the jeers of his former acolytes, five-eighth Scott Prince converted to tie the scores.
Gold Coast forced three consecutive line dropouts in the lead-up up to replacement hooker Beau Falloon’s 30th minute try.
After Bird drove the ball in to within a metre of the line, Falloon hopped out of dummy half and dived over, the eyes in the sky confirming he had not used his captain as a shepherd. Bird’s conversion was from almost in front and he made no mistake.
The final points of the first half came when centre Reed gave Hoffman the narrowest of corridors down the left flank and he touched down in the south-eastern corner for a try Prince was unable to convert.
Six minutes after the resumption of play, with Gold Coast back peddling and the visitors rising in stature, Brisbane hit the front.
Ben Hannant and Scott Prince were involved in the lead-up and second rower Matt Gillett crossed to the right of the posts, with Prince converting for a four-point lead.
Four minutes elapsed before replacement Ben Hunt kicked deftly for Reed. The England international did a good job selling the try with his celebration – and for an agonising minute or so it looked like the video referees were going to award it even though he did not ground the ball cleanly.
Sanity prevailed, however, and the four point margin made for a grandstand finish.
After a sluggish start to the season, the Broncos have now scored 11 tries in two games. Former Titan Prince, who was not made available to speak after the match, played a key role in the victory which ended Gold Coast’s three-game winning run.
“I thought his second half was pretty good,” said Griffin, who said he never considered changing the combination of Corey Norman at fullback and Prince plus Peter Wallace in the halves.
“He got us some opportunities there in the first half, under a lot of pressure from the opposition.
“Defensively, he held his end up and he came up with some nice plays to get some space for Gillett and Hodges.”
Aside from the absence of Sezer and injury to Kelly, Titans centre Brad Takairangi (hamstring) was forced off early and forward Ben Ridge couldn’t return in the second half due to a pectoral muscle injury.
Kelly has a low grade medial ligament tear in his right knee and will be sidelined for between two and four weeks.
“It was pretty sharp (pain) … I broke my leg and I was out for 16 weeks and it was pretty much the same feeling as that,” Kelly said.
“It’s not a matter of how long I’ll be out, it’s a matter of how much work I put in to get it right,” he said.
“I don’t know when I’m going to come back but my mind is set to play next week.
“It’s a low-range medial. They said it could have been worse. Happy days for me.
“I don’t want to miss a game. I just love playing football. You can be on top of your game one week and get injured just like that.”
Broncos forward Dunamis Lui also has a medial ligament strain.
Summing up the reason for the steady improvement in his side’s fortunes, Griffin said: “We’re playing more direct and the halves are combining with the fullback a bit better.”
Titans co-captain Nate Myles said: “A lot of people were painting a pretty picture for us but we weren’t up to where a lot of people thought we were.
“I don’t think the players were getting carried away but I think other people were.”
BRISBANE 32 (P Wallace J Hoffman M Gillett J Hodges A McCullough N Slyney tries S Prince 4 goals) bt GOLD COAST 12 (A Kelly B Falloon tries G Bird 2 goals) at Skilled Park. Referees: S Hayne/A Shortall. Crowd: 22,749.
Final team lists:
TITANS: William Zillman; Kevin Gordon, Brad Takairangi, Jamal Idris, David Mead; Greg Bird, Albert Kelly; Ashley Harrison, Ben Ridge, Dave Taylor, Nate Myles, Matt Srama, Luke Douglas. Res: Luke Bailey, Ryan James, Beau Falloon, Steve Michaels.
BRISBANE: Corey Norman; Josh Hoffman, Jack Reed, Justin Hodges, Lachlan Maranta; Scott Prince, Peter Wallace; Corey Parker, Michael Gillett, Alex Glenn, Scott Anderson, Andrew McCullough, Ben Hannant. Res: Ben Hunt, Dunamis Lui, David Hala, Nick Slyney.
Referees: Shayne Hayne/Alan Shortlall.