An Anthony Milford master class has condemned the iSelect Gold Coast Titans to a costly 36-20 loss to the Canberra Raiders at Cbus Super Stadium this afternoon.
The Titans struggled to contain the Raiders’ livewire fullback who scored two tries, set up two more and threatened the Titans’ defence every time he got his hands on the ball.
The loss sees the Titans slip to 13th position on the competition ladder and edge further from the top eight, meaning the side will need six wins from the last eight games to make the finals. A victory against a side below them on the ladder would have put them on 20 competition points, equal with a stockpile of teams around eighth spot.
It was the Titans’ sixth straight loss at home, which is extraordinary considering they have won five from seven on the road. When asked in the media conference afterwards, coach John Cartwright could not fathom an explanation.
Cartwright said his side prepared for the class of Milford but he proved too difficult to maintain.
“He just provides that bit of class, he gets a bit of space and he’s all class he turns maybe a try-scoring position into a try-scoring position,” Cartwright said.
“A majority of the points they score come off him, there was nothing there that they did that we weren’t ready for; he was just too good. He’s a rare talent.”
Cartwright said his side definitely had the chances to win but lacked the consistency and energy and consistency.
“We looked fatigued for most of the game and that’s how we played. Getting back to 20-14 I hoped was going to lift us and get the crowd involved and build some momentum but they lifted and went up another gear and that was the difference,” Cartwright said.
“There were some guys out there who played their heart out. Falloon and Carter were definitely our best two and probably best on field considering the effort they put in.
“That was a winnable game and we wasted a huge opportunity. It’s just consistency at this level and you’ve just got to play consistently every week in your effort and your preparation and the good sides do it regularly.”
It was the visitors who opened the scoring with Anthony Milford slicing through some sliding Titans defence to offload to Brenko Lee to score before Jarrod Croker added the extras to give the Raiders a 6-0 lead after nine minutes of play.
Some heavy defence forced a Raiders error coming out of trouble and the Titans took full advantage of their attacking ball with centre James Roberts crossing out wide, but with Kevin Gordon’s conversion sailing wide the Titans trailed 6-4 after 15 minutes.
The Titans on-line defence was proving solid, holding out three Canberra attacking sets when Dave Taylor scooped up a loose ball from his bootlaces to run 60 metres and get a pass away to Kalifa Faifai Loa who was brought down just shy of the line but managed to secure a penalty.
From the resulting set, Taylor again combined with Faifai Loa with the Coal Train throwing a crafty short-ball to put the speedy winger across the line in spectacular fashion before Gordon added the extras to give the Titans a 10-6 lead after 25 minutes. From there the Raiders outscored the home team 26-4 until the final play of the game.
A penalty piggy-backed the Raiders up the field and they made the most of the field position with Milford throwing a deft short pass to put Terry Campese through the line before supporting to score under the posts giving Croker an easy conversion to edge the Raiders to a 12-10 lead after 32 minutes.
The Raiders received a penalty directly in front of the posts after a late hit on Campese and they opted to take the two-points to edge out to a 14-10 lead with under ten minutes remaining in the half.
With the momentum in their favour, the away side capitalised through some quick hands to spread the ball out wide before a freakish Milford tap-on put Croker through to score under the posts before converting his own try to give the Raiders the 20-10 lead right on half time.
Despite the Raiders having the better of the second-half possession, it was the Titans who got across the line in the 65th minute but they were denied by the video referee who ruled a knock-on by Brad Takairangi who regathered his own grubber before putting Daniel Mortimer across the line. But the Titans would get another set on the Raiders’ line with the referee ruling the first knock on against the Raiders.
There was no stopping the Titans from the resulting scrum with Gordon scoring on the end of a backline play to reel the deficit back to 20-14 with 24 minutes remaining. But the true story was that the Raiders were playing at a level about the Titans.
The Raiders were making easy metres through the middle of the ruck and they capitalised on their easy yardage when Glen Buttriss threw a lovely short pass to put a barnstorming Shaun Fensom across the line next to the posts, giving Croker an easy conversion and the side a 26-14 lead with just over ten minutes remaining.
The Raiders posted back-to-back tries in three minutes with Josh McCrone crossing and Milford grabbing his second try to give the away side a 36-14 lead.
The Titans managed to score a consolation try after the full-time buzzer when Faifai Loa scored his second to reel the full-time deficit back to 36-20.
The Titans will look to hit back next week when they take on the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium but that will be a tough task on Rise For Alex weekend.
Canberra Raiders 36 (A Milford 2, B Lee, J Croker, S Fensom, J McCrone tries; J Croker 6 goals) defeated Gold Coast Titans 20 (K Faifai Loa 2, J Roberts, K Gordon tries; K Gordon 2 goals)