The iSelect Gold Coast Titans have been beaten by finals aspirants, the NZ Warriors, 28-12 at Mt Smart Stadium despite some spirited defence and tremendous enthusiasm in cold conditions.
After being behind 10-6 at half-time the Titans made some costly errors with the ball in their own end and were not able to hold off the bigger Warriors who scored two tries in the last 11 minutes after the game was in the balance at 16-12.
The Titans had a better start to the game than in recent weeks with second-rower Jaiden Hawkes getting over the line in just the seventh minute from a good offload by Shaun Hudson. Kane Elgey converted for 6-0.
The Stacey Jones-coached Warriors, who were two points out of the eight and needed to win to make the finals, were on the scoreboard five minutes later with a try down the left to centre Solomona Kata, to make it 6-4 after 12 minutes.
The Titans defended stoutly to repel several Warriors charges but started to cough up too much easy possession through unforced errors and Kata scored again from a scrum, forced by a fumble at the scrum base moment earlier. His time it was converted by halfback Mason Lino for the home side to lead 10-6.
The score was unchanged for the rest of the first half.
In the first 10 minutes of the second half the Warriors continually pressed the Titans’ line but the defence was first class, especially the line speed off the tryline.
However a break from dummy half by Warriors fullback Brad Abbey, after the Titans markers had a lapse in concentration, saw the tide turn. Halfback Lino went over at the end of the set and converted to make it 16-6.
The Titans were right back in the match at 16-12 with 16 minutes remaining when Zac Spring brilliantly out manoeuvred two Warriors defenders to snatch a Deacon Fletcher bomb to the right corner.
Danger man Kata, a Konrad Hurrell lookalike, was held up by great tackle by Spring and Hudson over the line, only for prop James Iodice drop the ball on the first tackle. It took the Warriors just three tackles to take advantage with Toafofoa Sipley crashing over, Lino’s goal making it 22-12 with 10 minutes remaining.
The score blew out in the last 30 seconds with a soft Warriors’ converted try.
Warriors 28 (Kata 2, Lino, Sipley, Tuimavave-Gerrard tries; Lino 4 goals) beat iSelect Titans 12 (Hawkes, Spring tries; Elgey 2 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium.