Three cheers for Carty echoed through the Allianz Stadium dressing room after the match but those inside would have swapped it for two competition points for the team.
The 26-18 loss to the finals bound defending premiers typified the Titans’ season. It was full of effort, lost opportunities, 50-50 referees calls that inevitably went the other way and frustration at a sixth loss for 2014 by eight points or less.
As the rain fell outside a few inside the shed fought hard to fight off their own waterworks as an end of an era finished with coach John Cartwright’s last match, and founder Michael Searle’s involvement.
As fullback William Zillman so eloquently put it: “It devastating because there’s a double disappointment tonight; our finals hopes are now gone and we didn’t get to send Carty out with the victory he deserved.”
Searle was also there, his father Tom, and old teammates and Cartwright’s former Roosters colleagues who all took time out to show their respect.
It was Dave Taylor’s milestone 150th career game and he scored from his first touch of the match after coming from the bench but had a mixed bag after that. The first nine minutes of the second half when the Titans held the ball for just seven tackles in three sets and the Roosters completed five sets summed up the evening before. Possession and pressure led to a Roger Tuivasa-Sheck try from a Mitchell Pearce bomb straight after, that was another major 50-50 call after the ball hit the hands of two Roosters players but each was ruled knock backs.
The Titans led 18-16 at half-time after Greg Bird scored from a Daniel Mortimer bomb in the last tackle of the half, comeback man Aidan Sezer landing his third straight goal to finish the half on a high. Yet they could not add to the score in the second half.
The rain came as the players jogged off and the Roosters handled the greasy conditions better when they returned. The game was in the balance even at 24-18 with 11 minutes to go when Michael Jennings scored in the left corner.
Play fluctuated from then and the Roosters spoiled several opportunities and gave the Titans a chance to level the scores and set up a fairy tale finish. But a couple of lost possessions ruined the opportunity.
“It just typified our season,” said co-captain Greg Bird. “We were in the game, put in a lot of error but frustration and error cost us.”
The Titans had the perfect start with a try to Anthony Don just two and a half minutes in after a Daniel Mortimer kick rebounded off the legs of Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney counter attacked only to pass the ball to no one and Don picked up the ball and ran 10 metres unopposed.
But Anthony Minichiello brought it back to 6-4 with a try in the right corner after a quick-handed shift in the seventh minute. Maloney beat Nate Myles and Zillman for a good individual try in the 21st minute for 10-6 but Taylor’s converted try six minutes later gave the Titans, after Sezer broke through and found Mortimer in support who fed Paul Carter. Taylor ran over from the next play from a good Sezer pass and the Titans had the lead again at 12-10.
Roosters winger Nene McDonald scored after a line-ball call went against the Titans when a touch from Shaun Kenny-Dowell from a Pearce kick was missed and a line-drop out ruled. McDonald went over from that set, but Bird’s try saw the lead go back to the Titans for the third time in the half.
The penalty count was 7-3 against the Titans, which was crucial.
The effort was superb, and the farewell for Cartwright emotional as he tried to contain his feelings after an emotional week. The smallest Titans typified the desire the side showed – hooker Beau Fallon who made 43 tackles and halfback Daniel Mortimer who made 34, one a beauty to hold up Boyd Cordner in the first half.
But like so many games this season, it wasn’t enough.
Sydney Roosters 26 (Minichiello, Tuivasa-Sheck, Maloney, McDonald, Jennings tries; Maloney 3 goals) beat iSelect Titans 18 (Don, Taylor, Bird tries; Sezer 3 goals). Crowd: 6345.