The Aquis Titans have rounded off an encouraging pre-season campaign with a narrow loss to the fancied South Sydney Rabbitohs at Pizzey Park.
The Rabbitohs ran out 22-20 winners after the Titans set up a thrilling finish with a try to newcomer Zeb Taia with minutes remaining.
But they lost possession in Souths’ half as they went on the attack for the last time and fell just short.
However, it was a strong effort by Neil Henry’s team which featured some punishing defence and good performances by several players. Both sides scored four tries.
After dominating possession and territory for much of the first quarter, four times forcing Souths to cough up the ball with string defence, the Rabbitohs scored two minutes before the first break.
It came off a brilliant stepping run by Cody Walker from his own end and ended with Kelly Turner scoring on the right edge. Bryson Goodwin converted for 6-0.
Earlier Zeb Taia was put on report for a lifting tackle on Greg Inglis and will have a nervous wait before the tackle is revived by the NRL.
The Titans hit back five minutes into the second quarter when left centre Brian Kelly picked up a spill by Souths of a cross-field kick by Tyrone Roberts, and burrowed over the line. Roberts’ kick hit the right upright to leave the core at 6-4 Souths.
The Titans hit the front in the 31st minute from a great cut out ball to the right from Roberts which found Anthony Don who crossed in the right corner. Again Roberts’ kick hit the right upright to make the core 8-6 to the Titans.
But just four minutes later the Rabbitohs were back in front when Hymel Hunt showed good footwork at the line after Souths got possession from a Leivaha Pulu error. The conversion was missed and Souths had the upper hand 10-8.
But soon after Luke Douglas gave the Titans possession in Souths half from a charge down he regained possession from. From the ensuing set triallist Cameron Cullen dummied and stepped from short range and was rewarded with his first try in this company.
Roberts landed the extras from close range to give the Titans a 14-10 lead at half-time.
It took 15 minutes of the third quarter for the game to open up and it was returning superstar Sam Burgess who did it for the Rabbitohs, scoring from close range with a right foot step after a repeat set. Bryson Goodwin converted to give Souths a 16-14 lead.
Just two minutes later the Rabbitohs’ other superstar Greg Inglis strolled under the posts under the posts from an inside ball in a set move and Goodwin’s easy conversion saw the Rabbitohs go from four behind to eight in front in a matter of moments.
Souths had the upper hand until Zeb Taia went into space from 10 metres and scores, with Nathan Davis taking on the kicking duties and converting for 22-20.
Souths 22 (Turner, Hunt, Burgess, Inglis; Goodwin 3 goals) beat Aquis Titans 20 (Kelly, Don, Taia, Cullen tries; Roberts, Davis goal).