It was a game in which the Titans showed character against the odds for all but the last four minutes, deserving a scoreline better than 36-14.
The Warriors, with halfback Shaun Johnson and five-eighth Chad Townsend controlling the good position and possession they had for much of the game, played a highly disciplined game and their short kicking game was certainly superior – evidenced by six line-drop outs they forced the Titans to make, on top of several other dangerous kicks into the in-goal which produced two tries.
The Titans had the ball for just one set in the first six minutes yet rejected the Warriors’ onslaught and came up with the first try - a brilliant effort started by James Roberts on the right and finished by Josh Hoffman on the left with a lovely touch by Titans debutant Nene Macdonald in the mix –in the 11th minutes.
Lachlan Burr’s first try in the NRL, laid on by Luke Douglas five minutes later, gave the home side a 10-0 lead and was reward for a great defensive effort. They led 10-6 after half-time after a soft try from dummy-half by former Titan Nathan Friend but the Titans completed all but two sets until the final minute of the half … but injury had already taken a toll with stand-in skipper Ryan James in the sheds with a shoulder injury.
It was the 52nd minute before the Warriors hit the lead, with Johnson doing the damage. The Titans were aware of the danger of Ben Matulino’s offloads and Simon Mannering’s awareness and both came to haunt them when they combined to put Johnson over for 12-10.
Two tries came from Johnson grubbers to the in-goal, one after a double deflection, before Johnson’s pace and footwork for his second try saw the score blow out – by which time the Titans were down their chief playmaker Aidan Sezer (with 15 minutes to go). They were then down halves in Sezer and Kane Elgey, three hookers, two internationals in captain Nate Myles who was injured in Origin III and Greg Bird, and vice-captain William Zillman.
Luke Douglas, who took on the captaincy when James left the field, was outstanding in making 56 tackles and a try-assist and never shirking his work with the ball.
The Titans made almost 100 tackles more than the Warriors, who also had eight more sets of possession, which was significant in how the match panned out.
Daniel Mortimer was relentless and courageous again against the big Warriors pack, making 46 tackles in his 58 minutes on the field, despite taking an early knock. Most of the forwards were tireless and McDonald gave real hope he is a prospect for the future.
Eddy Pettybourne, who came up with one of the most unusual play in an NRL try set-up, when he retired from an offisde position back into the defensive line and took a pass and fed it for James Roberts to score, also rolle dup his sleeves with another fine performance.
And Roberts scored his 14th try of the season and created the team’s first. Yes, a loss by 22 points and another at home, but there was plenty of character right to when the Warriors scored the last two tries when the 10-point deficit would have been a better indication of the Titans’ effort.
With Sezer certain to be missing for several weeks (hopefully Ryan Jams may be available) he joins: Kane Elgey (ankle), William Zillman (back), Kierran Moseley (knee), Beau Falloon (wrist), Matt Srama (ankle), Ryan Simpkins (knee), Davin Crampton (knee), Jai Ingram (ankle), Jamal Fogarty (ankle), Christian Hazard (ankle), Brad Tighe (shoulder), Ben Ridge (knee – hopefully right next round) and Greg Bird (suspended).
Yet the depth is probably the best it has been in the club’s history, and Myles should be back to take his place – with Macdonald and Mortimer – as one of three former Roosters to take on the team next Sunday.
POSSESSION: Titans 49%, Warriors 51%
COMPLETIONS: Titans 75% (24/32), Warriors 82% (33/40)
METRES: Titans 1210m, Warriors 1788m.
TACKLES MADE: Titans 362 (32 missed), Warriors 278 (23)
TOP TACKLERS: Douglas 56, Mortimer 46, Burr 46, Pettybourne 31, Redman 26.
METRES GAINED: Taylor 132m (12 runs), Douglas 122 (13), Mead 106 (15), Macdonald 103 (8).
MINUTES PLAYED (forwards): Douglas 73, Robinson 61, Mortimer 58, Taylor 58, Burr 56, Pettybourne 53, Paasi 41, Redman 36, Ioane 31, James 27.