St George Illawarra have all but consigned Gold Coast to the NRL wooden spoon with a drought-breaking, face-saving 40-28 win over the Titans.
Weighing 104 kilograms, Cowboys forward John Asiata might be the biggest five-eighth in the NRL, but the makeshift playmaker has managed to play a pivotal role in his clubs 28-14 win over Gold Coast in Townsville.
With star lock Jason Taumalolo a late inclusion at the expense of regular five-eighth Jake Clifford; Asiata started and finished a decisive try late in the second half.
Dancing across the halfway mark the Samoan international put in an audacious fourth tackle grubber to winger Ben Hampton who gathered, drew and passed back to Asiata to extended the home sides narrow two-point lead into an eight-point buffer.
“That was a big play for him to come up with that. He read the play really well, left foot grubber kick when he’s usually a right footer it was a big play.” Cowboys coach Paul Green told AAP.
It followed a trademark Tauamalolo performance who, in his first game since injuring his knee in round 2, ran for 217 metres and scored a first half try.
Gold Coast will rue two early overturned tries when halfback Ash Taylor dropped the ball over the line before winger Phillip Sami cost his side another by impeding a Cowboys defender.
“That’s frustrating they check a try that goes against us and then don’t do it for the Cowboys, that hurts.” Titans coach Garth Brennan said.
Queensland State of Origin Coach Kevin Walters’ injury concerns got even worse in the 29th minute when experienced prop Josh McGuire hobbled off with a calf injury.
The 11 game origin veteran failed to return, exacerbating the Maroons sizeable injury concerns with game one just five weeks away.
Titans fullback Michael Gordon also went off in the third minute for a head injury assessment and failed to return, although replacement AJ Brimson was perhaps the club’s best in Gordon’s absence.
Both clubs are in Brisbane next week for the NRL’s inaugural “Magic Weekend” with the Titans playing Cronulla on Thursday and North Queensland taking on South Sydney on Sunday.