The iSelect Titans under-20s were brave but defeated again in the Holden Cup, going down 20-16 to the NZ Warriors after leading for 67 minutes of the match.
They were a down man for more than half the match and down two for the last 20 minutes, and lost possession was probably the most telling factor of the game, in the second half especially, when they were down on troops when extra effort was required.
The first half saw each side score two tries, after the Titans started brilliantly. Second-rower Harrison Hughes opened the scores after just four minutes and Deacon Fletcher’s conversion gave the Titans a perfect start.
The had purpose with the ball and were physical in defence, however the Warriors scored next when left winger Alamoi Finau went over in the left corner to make the score 6-4.
Lock Parahi Wilson extended the lead to 10-4 and then centre Jaiden Hawkes picked up his team’s second try after winger Zac Spring was put away on a 50m run before finding Kane Elgey inside. Two rucks later Hawkes took two defenders over on the short side. Fletcher converted for 16-4 and the Titans were controlled, structured and dominant.
However, prop Oshea Tuisau left the field not long after with a knee injury which was going to affect the Titans’ interchange.
The Warriors started to bend our line more often and had the territorial advantage in the last 25 minutes of the half and were rewarded with a try to Ngataua Hukatai five minutes from the break. Again the Warriors were unable to convert, so a 16-man Titans went for a rest at 16-8 ahead.
The Warriors were the first to add to the score in the second half when second-rower Matin Love-Henry scored from a dubious pass near the Titans’ line. This time five-eighth Hingano converted to reduce the Titans lead to two at 16-14.
Warriors retained much of the momentum from then and the Titans desperately held on in defence.
But they were in the same situation as the NRL team eight days earlier – a two-man interchange bench – when lock Parahi Wilson went off in the 60th minute with a shoulder injury.
It was a brave effort by our boys but they could not get any momentum and time in the Warriors’ half because of costly dropped balls early in the tackle count. And with two men down, this proved insurmountable.
Centre Ken Maumalo scored the match-winning try for the Warriors in the 67th minute with Wafoa’easja Hingano converting for 20-16.
Jahrome Hughes almost pulled it out of the fire for the Titans when he just failed to latch onto a kick into the Warriors in-goal four minutes from the end. The ball bounced awkwardly just over his head just to the right of the posts.
It was the last chance the Titans had, which meant they were scoreless for the last 55 minutes of the match and yet again started confidently and played well in patches but just weren’t consistent enough over the 80 minutes, which would have disappointed coach Ben Woolf although their effort was again first-clash with two forwards missing for the final 20 minutes.
WARRIORS 20 (Finau, Hukatai, Love-Henry, Maumalo tries; Hingano 2 goals) beat iSelect Titans 16 (Hughes, Wilson, Hawkes tries; Fletcher 2 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium.