By STEVE MASCORD
MELBOURNE Storm five-eighth Gareth Widdop had the perfect opportunity to impress England coach Steve McNamara – in stands to run an eye over his World Cup credentials – with Origin players sideline from the Monday Night Football game against Gold Coast.
But instead, the-24-year old found himself being ferried from Skilled Park in agony during the 18-12 loss, his 2013 campaign in dire jeopardy with a dislocation to the right side of his hip – one of the most painful injuries an athlete can suffer.
Until he fell awkwardly in a tackle early in the second half, Widdop had been named at fullback but spent most of the night in the halves with debutant Ben Hampton filling the custodian position.
The Englishman was attended to by medical staff from both teams and taken to Robina Hospital with the game still in progress.
It was 6-6 at the end of a tight first half which saw Melbourne’s Ben Hampton score the first of two tries on debut.
Gold Coast had the first couple of scoring chances, with winger Anthony Don over in the fourth minute but Jamal Idris’ final pass ruled forward.
Seven minutes elapsed before Mark Minichiello crossed back the touchdown was once more chalked off for a knock-on in the air by Don.
After Storm centre Will Chambers fumbled 30 metres out to put his side under pressure, Titans halfback Albert Kelly had two chops at the ball lolling in the Melbourne in-goal after a kick and thought he had scored upon his second attempt to ground the Steeden.
Referees Jared Maxwell and Grant Atkins agreed but video refs Bernard Sutton and Reece Williams found Kelly did not dot down cleanly and at the end of the first quarter of the contest, the scorer remained untroubled.
After Aiden Sezer’s kick for Kevin Gordon failed to bring points for the home side, the visitors pounced with a scything right-side raid.
Centre Chambers got past Gordon in the 20th minute and offloaded to winger Sisa Waqa, who in turn found 21-year-old Hampton who scored near the posts. Five-eight Gareth Widdop’s goal gave the world champions a 6-0 lead.
Gold Coast’s response came only four minutes later.
Atkins screamed at Maxwell not to give Gordon the try – which came off a Kelly kick – claiming a defender had been pushed as he contested the ball.
But the eyes in the sky thought otherwise, discounting contact by Titan Brad Takairangi, and with Aiden Sezer’s conversion the scores were tied.
Rookie ref Atkins appeared jumpy – screaming “stop, stop, stop the game” at one stage when he correctly spotted an accidental offside. But his call was correct.
In the final two minutes of the first half, Gold Coast had further opportunities to score. First, fullback William Zillman sliced through a few metres out but the final pass went to ground.
Then Sezer kicked for Gordon in the south-eastern corner but put just a bit too much weight on it as it dribbled out of bounds and the siren sounded.
The Titans lost centre Takairangi to a rib injury shortly before Widdop’s departure in the 51st minute.
Shortly afterwards, Jason Ryles was pinged for a hand in the ruck and Sezer was able to edge the Titans ahead 8-6.
It became 14-6 shortly afterwards, Idris sucking in a couple of defenders on the blindside in the north-eastern corner and off-loading to Don – grandson of great coach Ron Willey – who scored.
Ryles was cautioned in backplay for a shoulder charge but soon afterwards, north Queenslander Hampton completed his double.
GOLD COAST 18 (K Gordon A Don L O’Dwyer tries A Sezer 3 goals) bt MELBOURNE 12 (B Hampton 2 tries G Widdop W Chambers goals) at Skilled Park. Referees: J Maxwell/G Atkins. Crowd: 13,044.
Filed for: THE AGE