The iSelect Gold Coast Titans have fallen to their fourth straight loss after suffering a hard-fought 15-12 defeat at the hands of competition leaders Manly Warringah Sea Eagles at Cbus Super Stadium.
Under new coach Neil Henry, the Titans challenged the top-placed Manly outfit for most of the match but just lacked the finishing class to get across the line.
Trailing 13-6 with five minutes remaining, the Titans ensured for a heart-stopping finish for the 11,490 strong crowd when winger Kalifa Faifai Loa crossed out wide and with Aidan Sezer adding the extras the Titans trailed 13-12 with 90 seconds remaining.
However they could not get any reward for their last desperate set of the game and gave away away a penalty in front of the posts in the last 10 seconds after the Eagles counter attacked, giving Manly an easy penalty-goal to take the 15-12 victory.
Titans coach Neil Henry said his side looked impressive in patches but just couldn’t control the class of table-topping Manly outfit.
“It was a pretty quick game of footy at times and pretty hot conditions. We had some good opportunities, they got some long range breaks for their tries,” Henry said.
“Our ball control when we were attacking their line wasn’t what it should have been; we turned the ball over a bit in attack.
“We had opportunities, we rolled up the field ok but ultimately their class got us. They’re quality halves and they make us pay.
“The boys were committed to the end. I thought there wasn’t a lot in the game and they are a quality opposition, so you can be satisfied with the effort.”
The Titans looked to have got across the line in the 19th minute but a big tackle by Manly’s Cheyse Blair on Greg Bird forced the ball free just short of the line.
Manly had the perfect chance to post first points in the 27th minute when Jorge Taufua found space out wide but Anthony Don pulled off a desperate tackle to force his opposite winger into touch.
There was no stopping Manly in the 33rdminute when Daly Cherry-Evans made a bust before kicking ahead for Keiran Foran, who appeared to be marginally offside, but the on-field referee controversially awarded the try without consulting the video-referee. With Jamie Lyon adding the extras, Manly took a 6-0 lead.
Manly crossed the line in the 37th minute through Lyon, but this time the referee sent the decision upstairs where it was ruled Tom Symonds prevented Daniel Mortimer from coming across in cover to stop Lyon from scoring and denied the try.
From the resulting penalty the Titans went on the attack and it took some individual brilliance by James Roberts to get across the line, with the speedy centre showing blistering speed to slice through the Manly defence to score under the posts right on half-time. Aidan Sezer converted the try to tie the game up at 6-all at the break.
After and end-to-end start to the half, it was Manly who broke the half-time deadlock with Foran breaking through a Mortimer tackle before getting a pass away to Brett Stewart to score under the posts giving Lyon an easy conversion to give Manly a 12-6 with 22minutes remaining.
Cherry-Evans calmly slotted a left-footed field goal in the 77th minute to extend Manly’s lead out to 13-6.
But after a short kick-off, the Titans ensured for a tight finish when Faifai Loa collected a Sezer grubber kick to score in the corner before Sezer added the extras to reel the deficit back to 13-12 with 90 seconds remaining.
The Titans threw everything at Manly but were just unable to make a break.
The Titans will look to hit-back next week when they take on the St George Illawarra Dragons at Jubilee Stadium.
Manly Sea Eagles 15 (K Foran, B Stewart tries; J Lyon 3 goals; D Cherry-Evans field-goal) defeated Gold Coast Titans (J Roberts, K Loa tries; A Sezer 2 goals)