A Kevin Naiqama hat-trick could not stop the Gold Coast Titans bringing the Wests Tigers juggernaut to a shuddering halt with a 30-18 NRL upset win on Saturday night.
The Wests Tigers could have grabbed the overnight competition lead with a third straight win and looked on track when they jumped to a 10-0 lead after 15 minutes.
But they wilted in the humid Gold Coast conditions after taking a 10-6 halftime lead as a resurgent Titans notched their fifth straight home victory in front of 9,975 fans.
The Titans’ left edge defence that was exposed in last round’s loss in Melbourne again looked vulnerable in the first half as centre Naiqama bagged a try-scoring double by the 15th minute.
Alarm bells were ringing for the hosts against a Wests Tigers side that had scored 150 points in their last four games, averaging at least 30 a match.
But Naiqama had to wait until the 77th minute for his third as the Titans turned the screws.
Party poopers Gold Coast rallied to ensure the Wests Tigers’ 400th game since becoming a joint-venture was nothing to celebrate.
The Titans did their best to keep James Tedesco in check although the in-form fullback still managed 156m and had two try assists.
Trailing 10-6, the Gold Coast looked down and out when their inspirational lock Greg Bird went off with a head gash.
But the Titans were sparked by a 45th-minute try by centre Josh Hoffman after the hosts made the Wests Tigers pay for a spilt ball.
Fullback David Mead was cut down after racing 70m following a Tim Simona knock-on before the Titans spread it wide for Hoffman to score.
Bird returned after missing 10 minutes being treated as the Titans scored four tries in 17 minutes as the hosts turned a 10-0 deficit into a 30-10 lead.
In another worry for the Wests Tigers, backrower Chris Lawrence was placed on report for a 26th minute dangerous tackle on Ryan James.