Maguire bemoans ‘cruel game’ as Brimson strikes in final seconds to avert first tryless game of NRL era

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Michael Maguire has backed his team to turn things around after they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on Thursday night, losing 8-4 to the Gold Coast Titans after a last minute AJ Brimson try.

The embattled Tigers coach described it as ‘a cruel game’, but was happy with his team’s commitment and contribution across the 80 minutes… bar, of course, the final 60 seconds.

“I’m actually proud of the players and how they stay at it and work,” he said.

“I’m really finding out a lot about my coaching and dealing with the players through these periods. I couldn’t be prouder – they’re rock solid.

“There’s a lot of hurt in the changing rooms at the moment. For 79 minutes we had it there but it’s a tough one.”

As the clock ticked over to the 80th minute, Michael Maguire’s men were 4-2 up and, just marginally, they might have been worth that lead.

But when your luck isn’t in, it really, really isn’t in. Toby Sexton dinked a kick towards the posts. It came down from the woodwork into the arms of Jock Madden, who fumbled the ball in his in-goal. Brimson touched down.

“Sometimes you get to find things out about the group and that’s why I said I’m enjoying coaching these boys, because they face adversity as a group and keep bouncing back to have another crack,” said Maguire.

“They showed how they can play there and if they do that over and over, they’ll get into a winning arena.

“There’s a lot being said around the club but internally, it’s very calm. I focus on coaching my players and turning up to go again.”

The late winner was a try borne from multiple incompetencies, appropriate for a game that was all set to be the first of the NRL era not to feature a try.

Despite their best efforts to lose, the Titans managed to win. For Justin Holbrook, that was enough.

“We expected a really tough game and got that tonight,” said the Titans coach.

“To find a way to win, I couldn’t be happier or prouder.”

The Gold Coast had endured a horror week in training, and gladly accepted the two points regardless of how they came.

“We had to come up with something,” said Holbrook.

“I’m not sure about getting out of jail, but once you do finally come up with something, I thought we deserved the win.

“I’m proud of the group. We had a short turnaround, four guys with COVID, one before captain’s run and one after, you can’t plan for that. Our facilities are underwater.

“At no stage did the players care about preparation, we were that confident and prepared tonight.

“It was a scrappy game all around but you can only play to the conditions and we came up with a win and that’s the main thing.”

Scrappy doesn’t do it justice. This was, as Dan Ginnane said on Fox League’s commentary, a game so forgettable as to be unforgettable.

By the time the half-time whistle blew on the Gold Coast, most of those in attendance had been praying for it for a long time.

The Titans and Tigers produced a half for the ages – in the worst possible way. Both teams were well off the pace, with only Corey Thompson coming close to a try; even then, he spilled the ball with the line begging.

With 37 minutes on the clock, the Titans decided to give it up as a bad joke and kick a penalty goal. Two minutes later, the Tigers did the same.

It was a fitting end: both teams admitting that no matter how they tried, they couldn’t score, well, a try.

The siren went before Luke Brooks put the ball through the posts, but even if his team had time for a full set, they wouldn’t have scored.

The Titans’ poison was errors: they made nine in the first half alone. That only tells you about the ones they dropped, however.

There were misplaced passes that went too high or behind their target, making life easy for the Tigers to defend. Holbrook blamed dewy conditions, but that seems far-fetched.

Erin Clark, the hooker, appeared to think he was playing halfback and continually slowed the play down by taking passes at first receiver, while David Fifita was starved of the ball on the edge.

He did get over in the first half, charging from a tap restart, but was held up.

A completion rate of 65 per cent over the course of the piece, with just one line break in 80 minutes, sums up the lack of cohesion in attack from the Gold Coast.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 31: Luke Brooks of the Tigers is tackled during the round four NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the Wests Tigers at Cbus Super Stadium, on March 31, 2022, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

For the Tigers, their predilection was for penalties, so many that Tyrone Peachey found himself binned for repeated offences. With ball in hand, they fared little better than the Titans.

If there had been any expectation that the coaches’ input at halftime would have changed the course of the game, it was quickly dispelled.

The Titans continues to pass to green grass regularly rather than sky blue shirts and the Tigers dutifully did their best not to ask any questions in attack.

David Nofoaluma, perhaps the most threatening man in a Wests jersey, did make one strong break on the hour mark but was dragged down by Tino Fa’asuamaleaui. Naturally, he lost the ball in the collision and it all came to naught.

It was very appropriate that the chance for the Tigers to take the lead came from a Titans offensive error.

David Fifita was stood in the line as Jamayne Isaako ran through, referee Grant Atkins called the obstruction and Luke Brooks did the rest.

With five to play, Moeaki Fotuaika was pinged for an interference penalty and Brooks extended the lead to four points.

There had been debate between Peachey and Brooks over whether it mightn’t have been a better idea to wind the clock down and make the Titans have to go the length to get the win.

The Tigers took the two, and paid the price.

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