The Aquis Gold Coast Titans have had a remarkable, and dramatic last gasp victory over the previously unbeaten Canberra Raiders after being behind by 14 points with just 15 minutes remaining.
They showed great character to run out 24-20 winners after the Raiders were arguably the better side for 60 minutes.
And it was a solo try from former Raiders prop David Shillington that turned the match. Big Shillo barged over from 10 metres and shocked the Raiders 15 minutes from the end to give the Titans new hope and turn the tide after the Raiders felt they had a winning margin after taking an easy penalty shot at 18-6 with 24 minutes remaining.
Skipper Ryan James said that decision by the Raiders gave the Titans the feeling their opponents were ready to shut down the match, rather than try to pile on more tries, and it gave the side heart that they could mount a comeback with a try.
The Raiders dominated play early and had an advantage territorially and possession-wise. Their skipper Jarrod Croker scored after just nine minutes after halfback Sam Williams dummied on the right edge and went straight through from 35 metres and gave Croker a free run to the line. Croker’s conversion made it 6-0.
We complicated the lapse by kicking out on the full and only three tackles into the Raiders’ set Elliott Whitehead was over after Josh Hodgson wandered right from dummy half near the line, held up the defence and put Whitehead over. Croker made it 12-0 and the Titans were definitely on the back foot.
The Titans lost possession either through fumbles or lost balls in the play-the-ball but managed to keep the Raiders at bay, despite them having the upper hand.
Greg Bird went off with a concussion and soon after Anthony Don joined him and the fear was the team would be down to 15 men. But Bird returned before half-time, just before Ryan James had put the Titans back in the game with a neat individual try.
James took the ball 15 metres out and dummied to the inside and the defence seemed to open up for him and he crossed to the left of the posts, with Tyrone Roberts converting for the Titans to behind 12-6 six minutes from the break.
However, another defensive lapse saw the comeback short-lived. This time Hodgson went left from dummy-half, dummied and went straight through and found Edrick Lee on his left shoulder and he crossed for another soft Raiders try. Croker’s kick made it 18-6 two minutes from half-time which was a fair reflection of the first half.
The Titans completed 13 of 17 sets in the first half but missed 18 tackles to the Raiders’ four, and rarely were able to mount any consistent pressure in Canberra’s half.
Don returned to the field for the second half so the Titans were back to a full complement of players.
However 12 minutes into the half Tyrone Roberts went down with what looked like a serious knee injury, but he got to his feet and played on for 10 minutes before finally retiring.
It was tit for tat for the first 15 minutes of the second half before a kick from Ash Taylor was caught like a slips catch by Whitehead five metres from the Canberra line and he took off downfield. But he went to pass on the half-way line and the ball went sideways and looked like a knock on, but was ruled back.
Two penalties later and Croker added a penalty goal to open up a 14-point lead at 20-6.
With 15 minutes remaining David Shillington crossed for a rare try and gave his side a chance against his former teammates, tapping the ball from a penalty and tearing into the line from 10 metres and getting through. Taylor’s conversion made it 20-12.
After a couple of penalties, the Titans were attacking the Raiders line and the momentum had shifted their way but a pass from Keirran Moseley to Leivaha Pulu right at the try-line was put down when it could have led to a try if it hit the mark.
A Raiders penalty for a strip saw them get up to the Titans end but the defence was tighter than the first half and hung on.
With five and a half minutes to go, on the back of another penalty, Zeb Taia scored to stun the crowd of just over 11,000. Luke Douglas probed across field and found Taia running direct into a little space and suddenly the Titans had gone from 14 points behind to just two with Taylor’s conversion at 18-20.
Frank Paul-Nuusasala was penalised for barrelling Ryan James chasing the kick-off and this saw the Titans head into Raiders' territory.
Then came the special moment or the youngest player on the field, John Olive at 19. The ball was shifted to the left by Taylor and Olive got possession five metres out with three defenders on him but somehow was able to wriggle out of tackles and momentarily get the ball on the ground.
Referee Henry Perenara signalled ‘try’ but went to the video bunker and several replays provided no evidence to overturn the decision, which was prompted by the touch judge closes to the play, although it didn’t appear conclusive either that the ball was definitely landed. Taylor – who only took on the kicking duties after Roberts left the field - landed the goal, his seventh from seven attempts in two games.
The Raiders gained possession from the kick off with less than 30 seconds remaining but fumbled the ball forward and the Titans players immediately embraced after a dramatic win full of character.
Yet there was talk after the match about a possible slight interchange breach when commentators alleged that when Roberts looked to leave the field with his knee injury that Shillington came on momentarily when Roberts decided to stay on. The NRL were looking into the situation and the Titans were left with a nervous wait to see what action may be taken.
Aquis Gold Coast Titans 24 (James, Shillington, Taia, Olive tries; Taylor 3, Roberts goals) beat Canberra Raiders 20 (Croker, Whitehead, Lee tries; Croker 4 goals) at GIO Stadium. Crowd: 11.039.