Gold Coast Titans knock off Brisbane Broncos
Queensland bragging rights went to Gold Coast as Brisbane fullback Ben Barba was again left with little to crow about in the Titans' 12-8 NRL win over the Broncos on Friday night.
For just the second time in 10 games - and first in two years - the Titans emerged triumphant over the Broncos to justify their top of the table billing in front of 20,524 fans at Cbus Super Stadium.
It was the same old story for an out of sorts Barba.
Gun shy after being peppered by high kicks all night, Barba's night was summed up when he made the fatal mistake of letting yet another Albert Kelly bomb bounce near the uprights in the dying minutes.
Looking a shell of the man who won the 2012 Dally M Medal, a tentative Barba then tried to regather the ball only to be pickpocketed by Titans pivot Aidan Sezer who crashed over for the 73rd minute matchwinner.
Barba had claimed to have been comforted by a mid-week heart to heart with coach Anthony Griffin but will need much more counselling following yet another shocker.
He looked vulnerable under the high ball all night and what little confidence he had appeared shattered after he spilt a 16th minute Kelly bomb.
The Gold Coast had to claw their way back from an 8-0 deficit after Corey Parker extended Brisbane's 6-0 halftime lead with a penalty goal when he copped a 43rd minute high shot from Paul Carter that was placed on report.
Brisbane celebrated again in the 60th minute but bench forward Todd Lowrie was deemed to be held up by the video referee.
Seconds later Titans fullback David Mead pounced on a Ben Hunt grubber and ran almost 100m to score before Sezer kicked a sideline conversion to cut the deficit to 8-6.
Brisbane got the upper hand in an absorbing first in the 30th minute.
Backrower Alex Glenn fed off halfback Hunt and broke the line before passing inside for the in-form No 7 to score.
Titans coach John Cartwright said he couldn't explain why they were No.1 despite leading the league in errors, third worst in completion rates and having the fewest linebreaks and tackle busts heading into the derby.
"I don't know but the players are working very hard and achieving something that can't be seen on the stat sheet," he said of the Titans.
"But I did wonder where our points were going to come from tonight. And with just one training session this week (after Sunday's win over Melbourne) I was worried that we would run out of petrol.
"But Mead - not many can do that."
The Titans will sweat on winger Anthony Don (finger) and Luke Bailey (ankle) ahead of next round's clash with Penrith.
Meanwhile, Broncos coach Griffin labelled it a "bizarre game".
"We did everything but win the game," he said of Brisbane.
Asked if Barba was heartbroken, Griffin said: "I think we are all heartbroken at the moment.
"That's the way things are rolling for him at the moment. But we still have a great attitude. We are just a side on the wrong side of the bounce of the ball."
Gold Coast Titans 12 (D Mead A Sezer tries A Sezer 2 goals) Brisbane Broncos 8 (B Hunt try C Parker 2 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium. Referee: Shayne Hayne, Chris James. Crowd: 20,500