The iSelect Gold Coast Titans have slumped to their sixth successive loss after suffering a heart-breaking 19-18 loss to the St George Illawarra Dragons at Cbus Super Stadium this afternoon.
With the scores locked up at 12-all going into the final 20 minutes, poor discipline by the Titans handed the visitors the upper hand with back-to-back penalties allowing Trent Merrin to score a converted try before Nate Myles was sin-binned for back-chatting with the referee when questioning a “block runner” in the lead-up to the try.
The Dragons took advantage of the Titans’ poor discipline with another penalty putting Gareth Widdop in perfect position to slot a field-goal, with no pressure from the Titans’ defence on their own line, to give the Dragons a 19-12 lead with seven minutes remaining.
But with just under 90 seconds left and trailing 19-12, the Titans ensured for nail-biting finish for the 12,189 strong crowd with centre Brad Takairangi scoring and Greg Bird converting to put the Titans within one-point.
The Titans left their comeback efforts too late with an error while in possession giving victory to the Dragons.
Titans coach John Cartwright said his side posted enough points to be in the match but just lacked the class to finish it out.
“When it was there to be won the other side was better. We scored enough points to win and created enough chances to win,” Cartwright said.
“I expect at a home game scoring 18 points against St George, I’d expect us to be able to defend it but we didn’t.
“I think we had to do a lot more defence because of the turnover of the ball and we were pretty disjointed with the ball but we created plenty of chances as well."
But Cartwright believes things can turn around for the side with hard work and stringing together a full 80-minute performance.
“The team has got to turn up and be courageous, stick to a plan and hang onto the ball and things will turn around,” he said.
“We’ve been close pretty much most of the year, the games that we’ve lost, we’ve been in every one but the Souths game at some stage.
“It’s just disappointing we haven’t been able to put the 80 minutes together and there’s not a lot different that we’re doing now to the tight games we won earlier in the year, it’s just a little bit of confidence and a bit of a luck.”
Titans co-captain Greg Bird said the side’s poor ball control made it difficult to amount any real pressure.
“We are dropping too much ball and we’re giving the other team too many opportunities at our defence,” Bird said.
“We’re blowing and losing all of our energy I our defence and then we can’t do anything with the ball when we get it.
“We were in the arm-wrestle; we were back and forth and then we made some errors in silly positions and gave away some penalties and then we were back on our try-line defending repeat sets. It is tough, but the good sides don’t put themselves in that position.”
An early penalty gifted the visitors the first attacking opportunity of the afternoon and they took full advantage when a Benji Marshall short-ball put forward Leeson Ah Mau through for an easy try before Gareth Widdop converted to give the Dragons a 6-0 lead.
The Dragons looked threatening but some individual brilliance by Kevin Gordon turned defence into attack by intercepting a Marshall cut-out pass before running 90 metres to score untouched under the posts giving new recruit Daniel Mortimer an easy conversion to lock the scores up at 6-all after 15 minutes.
Back-to-back penalties put the Titans into attacking position and they capitalised with Mortimer throwing a neat short-pass to Mark Minichiello who showed great strength to force the ball down. With Greg Bird coming onto the field he took over goal-kicking duties and added the extras to give the Titans a 12-6 lead.
The Dragons hit-back through the evasive Josh Dugan, who despite two Titans defenders clinging to him, forced his way across the line before Widdop added the extras to tie the scores up at 12-all going into the half-time break.
The Titans were also dealt a blow late in the first-half with forward Ben Ridge being forced from the field with a heavy concussion after a collision with former team-mate Will Matthews. He was out cold in the dressing room for some time but was walking around fine after the match.
The second-half turned into an arm-wrestle with both sides struggling to get the upper hand and it took some crafty footwork close to the line by the Dragons’ NSW Origin star Merrin to break the deadlock to score next to the posts, giving Widdop an easy conversion and his side an 18-12 lead with just under 20 minutes remaining.
The Titans’ woes were worsened with Myles sent to the sin-bin by referee Gerard Sutton for arguing the decision to award the Merrin try.
Despite being down a man, the Titans managed to prevent the visitors from adding to their lead.
Coming into the final ten minutes the Dragons made the most of their attacking position with Widdop calmly plotting the 73rd minute field-goal to extend the visitors’ lead out beyond a converted try at 19-12.
The Titans ensured for a nail-biting finish with Takairangi’s try and Bird’s conversion 74 seconds on the clock, so one last set of six to win the match. The Titans were unable to make the miracle play with James Roberts losing the ball, after receiving it from a Dave Taylor offload near halfway, handing the Dragons the 19-18 win.
The Titans have the bye next week before looking to turn their season around when they take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs in two weeks’ time. They remain on 13th position on 14 competition points, four points behind eighth placed Parramatta with 11 rounds remaining, after leading the ladder after six rounds.
St George Illawarra Dragons 19 (L Ah Mau, J Dugan, T Merrin tries; G Widdop 3 goals and field goal) defeated Gold Coast Titans 18 (K Gordon, M Minichiello, B. Takairangi tries; G Bird 2, D Mortimer goals). Crowd: 12,189.