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Titans beat Knights despite Kelly send-off

A brave Gold Coast overcame Brian Kelly’s 51st-minute send-off to beat Newcastle 36-26 and take a large step towards avoiding a second NRL wooden spoon in four years.

Centre Kelly was marched for a lifting tackle which dumped Knights winger Dominic Young on his head when the Titans led Sunday’s match 30-14.

It was a test of character for the home side from then on and they passed with flying colours against a Knights outfit that rallied late at Cbus Super Stadium.

Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook said he “couldn’t be prouder” of his men.

“To be down to 12 like that and defend for 30 minutes was great for our fans and our club to see how deep the players are willing to dig,” he said.

“Special mention to Tino [Fa’asuamaleaui]. He played 80 minutes. That’s fantastic. We are down a man and he stays on the field.”

Titans five-eighth AJ Brimson contributed one of his finest games – scoring two tries and setting up two more – in a team performance which would have tantalised Manly playmaker Kieran Foran ahead of his move to the Gold Coast next year.

Brimson and fullback Jayden Campbell turned on a razzle-dazzle clinic to suggest the addition of veteran Foran and Sydney Roosters hooker Sam Verrills will give the Gold Coast a spine to threaten the best of teams.

The win took the Titans to 12 points – two points clear of bottom-placed Wests Tigers on the premiership table.

With a far better for-and-against record than the Tigers, Holbrook’s side are now unlikely to finish last again, as they did in 2019 under Garth Brennan.

Campbell, playing with hints of the backyard skills his legendary father Preston would have displayed back in Tingha decades ago, showed vision and class to put David Fifita over with a superb pass, before laying on a grubber kick for Greg Marzhew to score his second.

Not to be outdone, Brimson, who was in everything, also put a slick kick in for Marzhew to score his first try, and produced a cracking pass for a barnstorming Beau Fermor try.

The Titans led 24-10 at the break despite Newcastle showing some promise, mostly through the work of their crafty rake Jayden Brailey, who put Daniel Saifiti over.

The Knights scored first after halftime through Dominic Young, before Brimson sprinted away to score.

Reduced to 12 men, it was Brimson again with a left foot grubberkick, and then another, who gave the Gold Coast a 22-point lead.

“He is just one of those great players. AJ is at the top of his game. He is exceptional wherever he is playing,” Holbrook said.

The Titans forwards, led by Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Fermor and Moeaki Fotuaika, were dominant.

Campbell also produced two try-saving tackles before being forced off with an HIA with 15 minutes remaining after a high shot from Adam Clune. The Knights halfback was not penalised, and Titans fans were not happy.

Newcastle centre Dane Gagai scored two cracking tries soon afterwards but the Titans held on.

“Much like our season, and probably our pre-season, it was inconsistent,” Knights coach Adam O’Brien said.

“We put up some fight towards the end but there were parts that were really disappointing.”

The Knights host the Sharks next Sunday on the traditional Old Boys day and O’Brien said he wanted his side to lift and give home fans a send-off they deserved.

Five-eighth Anthony Milford suffered a rib injury and was unable to finish the game.

Gold Coast unleashed boom back-rower Klese Haas, younger brother of Brisbane prop Payne Haas, for an impressive NRL debut.

The bright spot for the Knights was the class of 19-year-old Krystian Mapapalangi who was outstanding with the ball in hand.

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