Aquis Titans centre James Roberts has crossed for perhaps his most spectacular try of the season to equal David Mead’s season try-scoring record of 16 in the 36-14 loss to Canterbury at Central Coast Stadium.
The Bulldogs scored three tries in 15 minutes late in the game after the Titans lost playmaker Aidan Sezer with a shoulder injury, leaving them without both first choice halves, Sezer and Kane Elgey.
The Titans fought hard right to the end but the size and weight of possession late in the game saw the Dogs storm home after the score was in their favour just 16-10 twenty minutes from full-time when Roberts beat three tacklers with sheer pace and change of direction to stun the Bulldogs and the crowd.
Winger Leva Li, the 13th Titans debutant this season, had a solid first game on the right wing in NRL company and looked a good prospect for the future.
The Titans began with plenty of enthusiasm but errors in the first 15 minutes put them under too much pressure. Three times they coughed up possession on the first three tackles, one when Aidan Sezer intercepted a pass near his own line and ran 60 metres but his pass long to a trailing James Roberts was intercepted by Curtis Rona.
After Kalifa Faifai Loa dropped the ball on the first tackle rucking it out from the Titans end, the Dogs scored off the set from the scrum with Brett Morris crossing on the right edge after catching out Nene Macdonald.
Trent Hodkinson converted from the touchline to make it 6-0. The Titans finally finished a good set at the Bulldogs’ end but Agnatius Paasi was put on report for contact with Josh Morris after he took a Sezer bomb and the Titans had conceded their third penalty inside 20 minutes.
Curtis Rona was in for his 20th try of the season in extraordinary circumstances in the 26th minute. Brett Morris offloaded near the left touchline and the ball was tapped back to James Roberts who tried to flip the ball infield as he was about to go into touch … only to find the hands of Rona who ran 10 metres unchallenged to score.
Hodkinson again converted for 12-0 but if not for surrendering possession a few too many times, the Titans were not being outplayed, although the Dogs were allowed to offload too often.
It was Sezer who created the Titans’ first try in the 32nd minute with a neat grubber into the in-goal for winger Kalifa Faifai Loa to score in the left corner. Sezer missed the conversion against his junior club for the score to remain at 12-4 and there was no change before half-time.
Five and a half minutes into the second half the Bulldogs had the first scoring chance when Josh Morris got over the line but it was ruled he was held up.
The Titans defended well for the first 15 minutes of the second half but paid for a poor end to a set when they ran it to the right and Luke Douglas was caught and tried to get the ball away only for the Bulldogs to gain possession. At the end of the set Trent Hodkinson grubbered to the right and Greg Eastwood got through unchallenged to pounce on the ball in the 57th minute. Hodkinson failed to convert for 16-10.
More trouble came in the fact Aidan Sezer left the field with a shoulder injury while Hodkinson lined up the kick, leaving the Titans’ halfback stocks at a critical level with Kane Elgey already missing the game.
But within two minutes James Roberts showed his freakish speed and talent and scored perhaps his best try of the season. He stepped beat three players effortlessly from 30 metres, starting from the right and finishing under the posts to make the score 16-10.
The comeback was short-lived though. After Daniel Mortimer lost the ball at dummy half, then Dogs went onto the attack and Brett Morris went through the middle of the ruck and ran 45m to score on the left – after the move began from a suspect pass from dummy-half. Hodkinson made it 22-10.
The Bulldogs’ points kept coming. First it was Rona scoring his second on the left after Kasiano went hard and gave the Dogs momentum and then when Eastwood scored his second on the right, to make it 30-10.
Faifai Loa scored his second try of the game in the final seconds, diving to beat the cover after receiving a good cut-out ball from Greg Bird who was forced to five-eighth after Sezer’s departure.
Canterbury Bulldogs (Rona 2, Eastwood 2, B Morris 2, Klemmer tries; Hodkinson 4 goals) beat Aquis Gold Coast Titans 14 (Faifai Loa 2, Roberts tries; Bird goal)