The Aquis Titans’ season has finished in disappointment against the North Queensland with the score blowing out in the final 18 minutes after a gutsy performance for three-quarters of the game.
The Titans shocked the third-placed Cowboys by leading 12-0 after as many minutes at 1300SMILES Stadium but they were behind 16-12 at half-time and 20-12 soon after.
But they conceded six tries in the final 18 minutes to finish 42-12 losers and give their five departing players little joy to end their time with the club with.
However, the Titans had two initially awarded tries overturned by the video ref and halfback Kane Elgey was turned over past the try line at a critical time in the second half.
The Titans surprised the healthy crowd with a try in just the sixth minute when Kalifa Faifai Loa, who became a Kiwi international while at the Cowboys, leapt high above Justin O’Neill on a Daniel Mortimer bomb to score spectacularly just inside the dead ball line.
Elgey converted for 6-0 and from the set after the kick-off the Titans were almost in again – in what would have been the most peculiar try of the season to Agnatius Paasi.
Elgey put Paasi into the clear with a great ball at the line and if he looked inside to see Elgey in support, there may have been a try. Instead he went left and was tackled by Kyle Feldt who stripped the ball one on one.
Paasi then returned the favour and stripped the ball from Feldt and ran 20 metres to force the ball over the line. Referee Henry Perenara ruled ‘try’ but went to the video and the decision came back no try, and claim his Feldt had stripped Paasi after the tackle had been completed and the Titans received a penalty.
But the Titans scored soon after. Elgey looked cornered and unable to get a kick away on the last tackle on the left side so doubled back infield and Johnathan Thurston touched the ball as Elgey flung it out the back, giving the Titans six more tackles.
Mortimer snapped up the ball and fed it to James Roberts who headed in-field, opened up a half-break and sent a wonderful one-handed pass to Brad Tighe who pass to Josh Hoffman who stumbled out of a covering tackle to score.
Elgey added the extras for a 12-0 Titans lead after just 12 minutes.
The Cowboys roared back into the game though with the next three tries.
Ray Thompson scored on the left edge after Thurston opened up a three-on-two for 12-6 after 18 minutes.
Thurston grubbered to the left corner and the ball rebounded off Roberts’ legs for Kane Linnett to get an easy bounce and score in the left corner. Thurston converted to level the scores.
In the 28th minute it was Thurston again who went left and Antonio Winterstein went over for 16-12 after 28 minutes. The score was unchanged at the break after Dave Taylor was ruled to have scored only to have the ruling overturned, claiming he lost the ball into a Cowboys player before regaining over the line.
Thurston tortured us to create the worst start to the second half for the Titans. A poor ball from Roberts to Luke Douglas went down and from the resulting set Thurston shifted the ball left and gave Coote some space. Thurston missed so it was 20-10 five into the second half.
Kane Elgey went so close after he put Paasi away and then received the inside pass but dived five metres out but was held up over the line. The Titans had two more sets on the back of that only for James Roberts to not quite get to a Mortimer grubber into the in-goal as he scrambled with Winterstein.
The Titans had several opportunities to get closer in the next 15 minutes. Kane Elgey dived at the line from five metres after putting Paasi away and getting it back but was held up after making the line. Then Roberts just failed to get the ball down from a Mortimer kick in goal as he was challenged by Winterstein.
It was the finesse of Thurston that provided the next points though. After his kick on the last was played at by the legs of Kierran Moseley, and the Cowboys received six more tackles. It took only three for Thurston to go to the left edge again and out Gavin Cooper over from eight metres. Feldt missed the conversion for 24-12.
With 14 minutes to go it looked like the Titans were out of the match when Jake Granville grubbered on the last tackle from 10 metres. Josh Hoffman and Brad Tighe expected the ball to go over the dead ball line but Granville somehow got between them and flicked the ball back for Winterstein, a centimetre before Granville went dead.
This time Ethan Lowe missed the conversion, with Thurston resting himself through an injured leg presumably.
After a penalty for a Ryan James high shot, the Cowboys rolled downfield and Granville scored far too easily from dummy half, running diagonally and splitting James and Matt White to score for 32-12.
The Titans kicked out on the full from the kick off and in the next set came another soft try, with James Tamou going through a gap from 10 metres between Paasi and Douglas. Feldt converted for 38-12 and the Cowboys had scored four tries in 12 minutes after the Titans had battled on well at 20-12.
They made it five tries in 16 minutes when Linnett went over for his second and rather than finish the season with a hard-fought effort the score blew out embarrassingly for the Titans side to 42-12 – the Cowboys scoring 42 straight points, similar in fashion to a fortnight earlier when they were behind 16-0 against the Warriors but won 50-16.
Cowboys 42 (Linnett 2, Winterstein 2, Thompson, Coote, Cooper, Granville tries; Thurston 2 goals, Feldt goal) def. Titans 12 (Faifai Loa, Hoffman tries; Elgey goals).