There was much for coach Neil Henry to be pleased with, and much to work on, after the Aquis Titans came home strongly to draw 20-all with Parramatta Eels in the pre-season trial at Alice Springs tonight.
The Titans were impressive in the first quarter to lead 6-0 after the Eels didn’t get their hands on the ball for almost the first eight minutes thanks to two penalties and two repeat sets for the Titans.
The Eels scored the next 20 points before, after the scores had been locked at 20-6 for 33 minutes, the Titans scored three clever tries from close range in the last eight minutes to snatch a draw before a crowd of just over 2400.
The game came down to dominate flurries by both sides, with 30 points scored in 15 minutes, and just 10 in the remaining 65.
“I thought it was a good quality trial, and it was encouraging that we came home strongly with some good offloads and touches,” Henry said.
“Ball control lapsed at times and they scored a few soft tries close to our line but overall I’m happy with the effort and some of our young guys certainly benefitted from playing in this company and they had a real crack.”
Agnatius Paasi was in dominant form again after a tremendous Auckland Nines tournament while Nathan Friend led the side well, in the first quarter particularly, and there were good signs from fellow newcomers Zeb Taia, Chris McQueen, Leivaha Pulu and David Shillington.
First points came in the fifth minute through hooker and skipper Friend who scurried over from dummy half. He was strong in the opening period. Ash Taylor converted from close range for 6-0.
It was the 11th minute before the Titans made an attacking error and the control would have pleased coach Henry, but the Eels struck back through an error with the ball at dummy half.
They shifted the ball to the left and Ryan Morgan crossed with the Eels having an advantage of numbers out wide. The score remained 6-4 until the first break.
The Eels dominated the second quarter, taking advantage of a glut of possession and some Titans errors that weren’t evident in the first half.
The pack was rotated except for Friend at the break, other than Nathan Friend staying on for the first five minutes (Matt Srama took over at dummy after 25 minutes).
Junior Paulo crashed over from close range, then winger Burata Fairamo scored after a shift to the left flank. By the time former Titan Brad Takairangi stripped the ball from Shannon Walker after he took a bomb and Alex Twal crossed from the resulting play the ball, the Eels went into half-time 20-6 ahead.
The Titans pack was changed again with much of the first quarter starters returning, including Shillington, Taia, Paasi, Burr and McQueen who went to right centre for the next 20 minutes.
There was no score in the third quarter as both sides made errors. Matt Srama, who replaced Friend after 25 minutes, was sharp out of dummy half.
The score had not moved until a good long ball from Cameron Cullen to the left put Nathan Davis into space 15 metres out and he scored to make it 20-10.
That began the grandstand finish by the Titans.
Paasi offloaded a great ball at the line to Pulu who scored next to the posts to make it 20-14 but Daniel Mortimer’s kick hit the left upright.
With just three seconds remaining, birthday boy Eddy Pettybourne – who was strong in the final quarter - crossed next to the posts after good work from Pulu, leaving Davis an easy mick to square the scores and give the side some confidence after the encouraging effort at the Nines.
David Mead was strong at fullback, Brian Kelly ran the ball strongly despite limited opportunities and Davis had some good touches.
Aquis Titans 20 (Friend, Davis, Pulu, Pettybourne tries; Taylor, Davis goal) drew with Parramatta 20 (Morgan, Paulo, Fairamo, Twal tries; Kelly 2 goals) at Anzac Oval, Alice Springs.