Rabbitohs go six in a row after tense finish
South Sydney made hard work of their sixth successive victory, and their second without their State of Origin stars, but came way from Cbus Super Stadium with an 18-16 win against the Titans to remain safely in third position on the ladder.
At one stage the Titans had conceded 12 penalties to Souths' three, had lively back-rower Keegan Hipgrave in the sin-bin twice, and put themselves on the back foot with errors.
But the Rabbitohs were not safe until the final whistle and could blame themselves for that after dominating most of the first half.
Souths completed at just 64 per cent [28 from 44 sets with the ball] with Sam Burgess as guilty as anyone, with four clear drops of the ball in possession.
The victory makes it six straight for Souths on the Gold Coast, where the Titans have not beaten them since 2009.
Match: Titans v Rabbitohs
Round 14 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium
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Gold Coast could not be blamed for lack of effort, with Queensland prop Jarrod Wallace more than making up for his poor performance on Wednesday night with 168 metres, the most of any forward on the field.
However it was Ryan James who was the best forward of the match.
He scored two tries, made 46 tackles and 163 metres from 20 runs, showing NSW coach Brad Fittler he is ready for Origin should any of the game one forwards strike injury.
Souths should have led clearly at half-time after dominating possession and having the most scoring opportunities. But they had two tries disallowed and fell into errors late in the half that had marred the Titans' first 30 minutes.
Gold Coast had had just 37 per cent of possession after 25 minutes because of a rush of penalties [seven in the first half] and handling errors and were down to 12 men after Hipgrave was binned for offside near the try line - deemed a professional foul.
The Titans were certainly brave in defeat. They spent almost all the second half with a two-man interchange due to injuries to props Max King and Moeaki Fotuaika and spent 20 minutes without Keegan in the sin bin.
Titans had the best possible start, with a try to Phil Sami in the fifth minute from an Ash Taylor kick that went clear through the hands of Rabbitohs winger Campbell Graham.
They should have been further ahead four minutes later when a neat grubber from Alexander Brimson saw only Dale Copley and Keegan Hipgrave following the ball. But they got in each other's way trying to ground it and Copley knocked on.
From that point, South dominated for most of the remainder of the first session.
Sam Burgess crossed in Souths' next set only for a try to be called back because his brother George collided with Jarrod Wallace as he ran a decoy.
However, they converted their next opportunity when Brimson came in and left Copley stranded, allowing Adam Doueihi to cross on the right edge. Adam Reynolds converted to give Souths a 6-4 lead after 13 minutes.
Robbie Farah went over from dummy half after back-to-back penalties but dropped the ball, only for Hipgrave to be sin-binned, when referee Grant Atkins lost patience with the continual misdemeanors by the home side.
Gold Coast junior product Cody Walker crossed on the left after playing with Titans right centre Brenko Lee who held off him.
The score was 10-4 after 18 minutes but Souths had crossed the line four times, with two tries disallowed.
The Titans were back in the game nine minutes before the break when skipper James charged over from 10 metres close to the ruck, with Michael Gordon converting for 10-all. Yet Souths were far more dominant in the first session.
The Titans' errors continued in the second half. Reynolds kicked a penalty goal two minutes and two minutes later Hipgrave was binned for a second time in the match for a strip, the fourth penalty conceded by Gold Coast in the first four minutes of the half.
Alex Johnston made them pay when he scored after a passing rush to the right in the 47th minute and Reynold's conversion made it 18-10.
Sami was centimetres close to scoring his second soon after, again from a Taylor kick, but his right hand touched the dead-ball line before he grounded the ball with the other hand.
James crossed for his second try from close range in the 61st minute to put Gold Coast within two points after Gordon's conversion. But with a quarter of the game remaining, they could not close the gap.