The Gold Coast Titans have suffered another heartbreaking loss, going down 22-16 to the reigning premiers the South Sydney Rabbitohs in front of 15,583 fans at Cbus Super Stadium today.
Lock Lachlan Burr, who was one of the Titans' best performers, looked set to throw the match into extra-time when he crossed next to the posts the line off a great pass from Aidan Sezer only to have it knocked from his grasp by Alex Johnston who was at fullback after Greg Inglis left the field concussed.
Yet it was a courageous effort by the Titans who struggled in the possession count for a majority of the match and despite only having only 39% of the ball in the first-half managed to take a 10-6 half-time lead.
On the back of the heavy defensive workload, the Titans began to compound errors with penalties to gift Souths attacking position and they capitalised by scoring three tries in the second-half to take a 22-10 lead going into the final ten minutes.
But the Titans continued to battle on and ensured for a tight finish when Dave Taylor put Anthony Don across the line for his second-try in the 74th minute before Sezer slotted the extras from the sideline to put the Titans within a converted try with under five minutes remaining.
With all the late momentum, then came the Burr disallowed try to break the hearts of the Titans.
Coach Neil Henry said he was proud of his side’s effort in defence throughout parts of the game but there were errors in crucial times which proved costly.
“It was a brave effort but we made too many unforced errors. We defended really well in patches but then let a couple of tries in where they went through us,” he said.
“We used up a lot of energy early in the game, we really didn’t get to attack too often but when we got down there we scored points.
“Our right edge was pretty good and a couple of times we rolled through them on fast play-the-balls but our ball control wasn’t good enough to take advantage. We were there at half-time but we just needed to be better with our ball control in the second-half.
“We made too many errors, we made a lot more tackles than them, they had a lot more possession they’re a big team and ultimately they got the points.
“We’ve got some real defensive metal in our own half and on our own line when we’re all working together and shutting down what they through at us. I think there would be plenty of sides where they would have scored more points in that first 20 minutes of the game.
“We are mentally strong enough to put that game behind us. We can’t just do anything the past, we can just build for the future."
Captain Nate Myles said the attitude on the field was great and it was pleasing to see the side back-up for each other in defence.
“Our attitude was pretty good defensively tonight, even if we did make a mistake, people were there to cover it up and we worked together pretty well,” he said.
“On the back of that defence we need to make sure our control is a lot better. It was definitely the best attitude we’ve had this year.
“I think (the close losses) it’s building a bit of character about us. I think our young halves and hookers are starting to recognise these situations now and its turning into a positive.”
After needing to make a barrage of early tackles on their try-line, the Titans were rewarded for their solid defensive effort when James Roberts used his pace to get on the outside of his opposite number to get a ball away to Anthony Don to score in the corner and give the Titans a 4-0 lead after ten minutes.
Despite the Titans scoring first points, the momentum and possession continued to favour Souths with the Titans forced to defend their try-line for three consecutive sets.
Souths took advantage of this heavy-string of possession in the 24th minute after the video-referee overruled the on-field ‘no try’ decision to award Greg Inglis’ try despite the star fullback running behind Luke Keary in the process of getting over the line, with Burr obstructed. Burr pushed Keary and that obviously was the reason the call was reversed. With Issac Luke converting from in front of the posts, Souths took a 6-4 lead.
Despite having limited attacking ball, the Titans looked threatening with ball in hand and they made it count in the 34th minute with Aidan Sezer and Kane Elgey combining to get a ball out to Roberts who used his sizzling speed to beat Bryson Goodwin to score in the corner before Sezer converted to give the Titans a 10-6 lead.
The Titans defence was again put to the test in the dying minutes of the half, with Souths forcing another repeat set, but the Titans continued their scrambling to keep Souths at bay and take a 10-6 half-time lead.
Souths took advantage against the run-of-play when Inglis collected a ball on his own try line to race 50 metres downfield before receiving a penalty to piggy-back the side further up the field before John Sutton held up a deft pass to put Chris Grevsmuhl in for a try. With Luke’s kick bouncing astray of the up-right the scores were locked up at 10-all with 30 minutes remaining.
Souths lost Inglis from the field after the after the fullback copped a head-knock attempting to clean up a Titans bomb.
A penalty gifted Souths attacking position and they took the lead after Keary combined with Nathan Brown to get a pass off to stand-in fullback Alex Johnston to score untouched under the posts. This time Luke made sure he added the extras from in front to give the away-side a 16-10 lead with under 20 minutes remaining.
Given the high amount of defending, the Titans errors and penalty count continued to rise and Souths took full advantage of their prime attacking position to extend their lead with Sutton combining with Grevsmuhl to score his second try before Luke added the extras to give Souths a 22-10 lead with eight minutes remaining.
The Titans ensured for an exciting finish with Dave Taylor busting through the defence before getting a pass away to Don to score his second try outwide. Sezer then added the extras to put the Titans within a converted try, trailing 22-16 with five minutes remaining.
The Titans looked to have scored in the 78th minute when Lachlan Burr got across the line but were denied by some desperate defence by Johnston who knocked the ball free to secure the 22-16 win for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Titans will look to hit-back next week when they take on the Wests Tigers at Leichardt Oval.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 22 (C Grevsmuhl 2, G Inglis, A Johnston tries; I Luke3 goals) defeated Gold Coast Titans 16 (A Don 2, J Roberts tries; A Sezer 2 goals)