Gold Coast’s star signing Bryce Cartwright was kept on the bench for the Titans win over Brisbane.Gold Coast’s drought-breaking defeat of Brisbane signalled a return to form of one key man but the snubbing of another as coach Garth Brennan showed he wouldn’t play favourites in his rookie season.
The Titans shrugged off a horrid 54-8 flogging from St George-Illawarra last weekend to beat Brisbane 26-14 at Suncorp Stadium and snap a seven-game losing streak against the Broncos.
Five-eighth Kane Elgey returned to form with two try assists and, just as crucially, no missed tackles in a confidence-boosting display.
But high-profile recruit Bryce Cartwright was conspicuously absent from the action, only coming on briefly at the close of the first half after being dropped from last week’s starting side.
The 23-year-old was lured to the Gold Coast from Penrith by his former junior coach Brennan and had played two games at lock and one at halfback to start the season.
Cartwright had been found wanting in defence though and the coach admitted with the game on the line and the Titans on the back foot on Sunday there was no room for a cameo.
“When it become a real defensive arm wrestle I just couldn’t get him back into the game at that point,” Brennan said.
“He obviously would’ve liked to have played more minutes … the guys that were in there were doing the job and I just didn’t feel like changing it at that point.
“He’s a work in progress, Bryce, he’s only 23 so it’s going to take some time and we’re in no rush because he’s here for a couple of years.”
Brennan’s tweaks worked wonders for the Titans’ defence, with captain Ryan James (135 run metres, 36 tackles), Jai Arrow (129 metres, 35 tackles) and bench forward Max King (108 metres, two offloads, 21 tackles) among the best on ground.
It tightened what had been the NRL’s worst defence and resulted in the side more than halving their average missed tackle count across the first three games.
That platform allowed Elgey to make an impact, something James in particular was happy to witness.
“He had a great night up here. It’s just good to see him playing with that confidence and throwing that long ball,” he said.
“I smiled to myself when I saw him throw one at training the other day and sort of thought, ‘he’s back’.”
It was the Titans’ first win at Suncorp Stadium since their first trip in 2007, ending a run of 11 straight away defeats.