Gold Training under-20s coach Ben Woolf gave his team the ultimate accolade after their 42-20 victory against the Raiders in Canberra today.
Woolf said it was the grittiest victory he has been associated with as coach of the team, as he is into the fourth round of his third season in charge.
The young Titans lost skipper Jed Cartwright with concussion after just 20 minutes and halfback Josh Fauid with a shoulder injury with eight minutes remaining, and were almost penalised out of the game – 13-6 against them – as referee Adam Cassidy inflicted a one-man blitz on holding down in the ruck.
The Raiders had set after set inside the Titans’ quarter in the second half but could not cross the try-line in the last 28 minutes after they were behind 24-20, but were unable to score.
“The character our guys showed was just outstanding,” said the proud coach after the match.
“That’s the toughest, grittiest win I’ve been associated with. Our guys just refused to surrender. They just kept turning up on our line and shut them out.”
Former Raiders under-20s player Morgan Boyle was at the forefront of the effort that was full of character. He played the 80 minutes and set up a try with a damaging run and was tireless in attack and defence.
He had great support from his fellow forwards like Nathan Watts, Jerome Veve, Max King who played long minutes at lock and hooker Jordan Scott who scored a terrific try. Brayden McGrady hurt his ankle early in the match but played on strongly, slightly-built five-eighth Josh Rogers was the rock of the team with his clever kicking and passing and solid defence while Greg Leleisiuao finished off the scoring with a 50m effort down the right side after being a handful despite being given little room to impress.
And winger Tyronne Roberts-Davis was faultless with the boot, converting all seven tries – albeit the last getting a favourable bounce off the upright.
The Raiders received two penalties in the first 90 seconds but the Titans defended vigorously and forced an error. They went up the other end and prop Watts ploughed through the middle of the ruck to score his third try in 83 minutes after picking up a double against Wests Tigers the weekend before.
The Raiders replied with two tries to lead 8-6 in the 22nd minute but did not lead again.
McGrady soon after scored one of the Titans’ impressive tries, set up by Boyle who was put into space on the half-way line and pushed off three defenders with his right-hand fend in a 40-metre run, before one-handedly passing to McGrady 10 metres out.
Six minutes before the break Leleisiuao scored after good pass near the line from Fauid. Leleisiuao looked like he would be held up but shook out of the tackle over the line. Tyrone-Davis’ goal made it 18-8 but right on half-time a converted try by the Raiders brought the score back to 18-14.
Five minutes into the second half a flop-back offload by big prop Bernard went to Scott who dummied and cut through from 15m to score under posts. Davis-Roberts goal’ made it 24-14.
A Raiders try to halfback Zeik Foster in the 51st minute made it 24-20 but the Titans refused to bow to the Raiders’ advantage in possession fuelled by constant penalties, and held strong.
Ethan Roberts crossed in the 64th minute from a great offload by Jerome Veve, then back-rower Kelepi Faukafa scored on debut in the 73rd minute from close range on the left edge before Leleisiuao capped a magnificent team performance when he was on the end of a right shift and pushed off three defenders on a 50-metre run to the line.
It left Roberts-Davis with a difficult assignment to keep his unblemished kicking record for the day but he converted with a rebound off the upright. It was a fitting finish for a side that thoroughly deserved the accolades.
Gold Training Titans 42 (Leleisiuao 2, McGrady, Watts, Scott, Roberts, Faukafa tries; Roberts-Davis 7 goals) beat Canberra Raiders 20.