Cowboys beat Titans to add to Hasler’s nightmare start

Scott Bailey |

Scott Drinkwater was among the scorers as the Cowboys left the Titans floundering in their wake.
Scott Drinkwater was among the scorers as the Cowboys left the Titans floundering in their wake.

Gold Coast’s woeful start to the season under new coach Des Hasler has continued, with the Titans remaining winless after a 35-22 loss to North Queensland.

Beaten heavily in each of their first three games, the Titans were only briefly in the contest in Townsville on Sunday.

Gold Coast’s 0-4 start is now the equal-worst in the club’s 17-season history, with Hasler facing a titanic battle to turn them around.

Only the Titans’ bye has saved them from sitting below South Sydney and in last place on the ladder, while they remain the only team without a win in 2024.

There were brief signs of improvement in the team’s attack on Sunday, with four second-half tries doubling their tally to eight over their first four games.

But more concerning is their defence.

Sunday’s defeat made them the first club in history to concede 28 or more points in nine straight games, dating back to late last year.

Zac Laybutt scores a try.
Zac Laybutt scores to begin the Cowboys’ onslaught against the Titans. (Scott Radford-Chisholm/AAP PHOTOS)

Adding to their woes, veteran five-eighth Kieran Foran was also sidelined by an ankle injury in the first half on Sunday and could not return.

“It was just too painful (to come back),” Foran said.

“Hopefully the damage isn’t too bad. It feels alright now.”

One of their few bright spots came with him off the field, when AJ Brimson laid on a try for Jayden Campbell after being switched from the centres to five-eighth.

There is an argument that Brimson should remain in the halves in place of Foran or Tanah Boyd, with the experiment to start him at centre clearly not working.

Brian Kelly, Klese Haas and Beau Fermor also crossed for the Titans in the second half to reduce the deficit to 28-22. That made it four tries in 19 minutes, and a comeback looked possible.

But any chance of that was officially shot with 11 minutes to go, when Kyle Feldt intercepted a Brimson pass and ran 40 metres to score.

“We just couldn’t pull the trigger on the gun well enough to make it a contest,” Hasler said.

“And consequently they capitalised on that one, and it was probably the ball game.”

Jayden Campbell.
Jayden Campbell’s try was one of few bright spots for the Titans. (Scott Radford-Chisholm/AAP PHOTOS)

The Cowboys, meanwhile, have some concerns with fears luckless centre Zac Laybutt has suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

Halfback Chad Townsend is also at risk of suspension after being sin-binned for a hip-drop tackle on Campbell, before he returned and kicked a late field goal.

North Queensland are a team who have proven they can pile on the points in 2024, but their defence does remain a concern to coach Todd Payten.

But still, Sunday’s attack helped them move to second on the ladder.

Scott Drinkwater scored a double and set up another try, while Valentine Holmes cut the Titans apart on the edges.

North Queensland’s first try summed up the day ahead for the Titans, when Laybutt scored untouched.

Holmes put Murray Taulagi over for the Cowboys’ next, and when Drinkwater strolled past David Fifita and Jaimin Jolliffe it was 16-0 at halftime.

Drinkwater and Reece Robson also claimed second-half tries, before Feldt’s four-pointer made him the leading try-scorer in Cowboys history.

“There were some good parts to it, but some really frustrating and disappointing parts,” Payten said.