The Aquis Gold Coast Titans, down 14 players from their squad and eight from their winning teams from side earlier in the season, took the fourth-placed Sydney Roosters right to the wire on the Central Coast this afternoon.
Down on hookers and halves which sae usual centre James Roberts start at five-eighth and fullback/centre Josh Hoffman at halfback, the Titans went close to posting a try in the final 10 minutes that would have put the Roosters under immense pressure but didn’t quite have the finesse to get over the line.
Behind 18-4 at half-time, the Titans scored the only try of the second half in a strong defensive effort against the all-star opposition, but went down 20-10.
The Titans could have had a dream start in the sixth minute after David Mead forced a line drop-out when he caught Daniel Tupou in goal from a Josh Hoffman bomb. From the ensuing set Nene Macdonald stood in a tackle and pass to Hoffman inside but the ball didn’t make its mark.
Instead the Roosters received a penalty and headed upfield and in the next set Shaun Kenny-Dowall was over in the right corner after a nice pass from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. James Maloney converted from touch for a 6-0 early lead.
The Titans defended two sets well before Dave Taylor played at an inside pass from Tupou but knocked on and gave the Roosters a scrum feed. But from the set Anthony Don latched onto a pass from James Maloney and ran 90 metres to score to make it 6-4 with Daniel Mortimer missing the conversion kick.
The Roosters had 60 per cent of possession in the first 30 minutes but the Titans defended well. But NSW Origin centre Michael Jennings crossed after James Maloney held up a good ball for him and he beat three players from 20 metres.
Maloney converted from the left touchline this time to open up a 12-4 lead.
Yet the Titans continued to defend strongly and get through sets fine and pushed the Roosters on their line towards the end of the half. But the ending to their sets were not good enough, showing how much Aidan Sezer was missed, and Dave Mead ran from dummy half and was caught with just 30 seconds remaining.
From the turnover the Roosters shifted the ball left on the second tackle and Maloney put Michael Jennings into the clear and Maloney backed up to score under the posts in the last play of the half.
It was an absolute heart-breaker after such an encouraging effort in the first 40 minutes, with Maloney’s conversion making it 18-4 at the break.
The Titans started the second half with James Roberts, who took a knock to his left leg in the first half, moving back to right centre and Dave Taylor starting off the bench.
They narrowed the gap 14 minutes into the second half. After squandering possession with fumbles on the two previous set, Daniel Mortimer put in a neat grubber kick on the left edge and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck muffed the clean-up and Nene Macdonald came up with his first try for the Titans against his former club.
Roberts took over the kicking duties and landed the goal from 5m in from the left touchline to make the score 18-10 to the Roosters and the Titans were certainly in the contest with 25 minutes remaining.
But both teams made constant errors after that and there was no score until James Maloney kicked a penalty goal after the full-time siren had sounded.
The Titans’ defence was full of merit and effort and they snuffed out several Roosters raids, and forced them into error, with Agnatius Paasi particularly aggressive and willing, along with Eddy Pettybourne.
In the end it was finesse on the last tackle particularly that cost the Titans mounting more points, with the ball not getting to the designated kicker several times, which was a legacy of regular hookers and halves being absent and Aidan Sezer’s dominant voice being absent.
Roosters 20 (Tupou, Jennings, Maloney tries; Maloney 4 goals) beat Titans (Don, Macdonald tries; Roberts goal) at Central Coast Stadium. Crowd: 12,569.