Again the Aquis Titans, the team that won’t go away (how many times has that term been used to described the team in recent weeks?), had to come from behind again after conceding the first try.
That makes it five games straight the team has rallied to gain, or almost gain, victory.
And while the character of the side has rightly captured the imagination of the NRL environment, the coaching staff and players know they have to find a way to start stronger and not have to be chasing leads.
The Titans conceded the first 14 points in first 18 minutes against the Sharks before responding with the next 18 in 22 minutes. But at the other end of the scale, they could not quite find the finesse to take the match in the final 10-15 minutes.
We have now conceded the first try in five successive games – all in the first nine minutes.
Also, the Titans have conceded quick back-to-back tries in a short period in four of the past five games which has led to a big flow of possession to the opposition that has caused massive momentum shifts.
Against Melbourne in round 2, the Storm scored twice in three minutes (35th and 38th) and three tries in 13 (55th to 66th); in round 3 Wests Tigers they conceded the first two tries (5th and 15th minutes) and the last two (78th and 79th); the slow start against the Raiders produced two tries (9th and 12th minutes); and the Sharks yesterday saw them pick up three tries in 13 minutes (6th to 18th minutes) before our boys were on the board.
That’s a total of eight tries conceded in the first 12 minutes since the comprehensive win against the Knights in round one.
In between those periods the defence has generally been sound, and the ‘scramble’ tremendous, although the 45 missed tackles compared to the Sharks’ 18 leaves the Titans with only Penrith (5.5misses per game) who have missed more in the first six rounds.
The possession flow was intriguing. The Sharks had 77 percent of possession in the first 21 minutes while they raced to a 14-0 lead, with penalties 7-3 to the Sharks in the first half. Yet they were behind only 14-12 at the break after getting a flow of ball – and holding it. By game’s end, the possession chart said the Titans had 51 percent to the Sharks’ 49.
In the end some contentious calls were extremely influential in deciding the result.
Ben Barba’s run away try in the sixth minute came from what appeared a knock-forward by James Maloney but when referee Grant Atkins ruled try before getting the bunker’s opinion, they deemed there was not enough evidence to overturn it.
David Shillington was pushed in the back over the tackled Sharks player yet was penalised for interference, and the Sharks scored their third try soon after.
And in the set after Chad Townsend made the score 21-20 in the 69th minute, Atkins ruled Andrew Fifita had dropped the ball in the tackle only to get third party advice and decided on a strip penalty against Ryan James – with video replays being far from conclusive. Valentine Holmes scored the match-winner in the next set.
However, the Titans also made some crucial errors and weren’t able to pull off some clutch plays in the game’s back end.
But all this considered, to again be so close to a side that many are tipping for a top four to six finish, and with a halves pairing that had six NRL appearances between them before the match – all the above shows what up-side there is for the current Titans team.
KEY MATCH STATS
POSSESSION: Titans 51%, Sharks 49%
COMPLETION RATE: Titans 78% (29/37), Sharks 73% (27/37)
ERRORS: Titans 8, Sharks 11.
TACKLES: Titans 270 (missed 47), Sharks 300 (missed 18)
OFFLOADS: Titans 17, Sharks 18.
LINE BREAKS: Titans 3, Sharks 7
TOP TACKLERS: Friend 41, McQueen 28, James 26, Bird 21, Taia 19,, Taylor 19.
TOP METRE MAKERS: Macdonald 148, Paasi 132, Bird 129, Douglas 127, Zillman 109.
MOST HIT-UPS: Douglas 17, Bird 17, Paasi 15, Macdonald 12, James 11, Taia 11, McQueen 10, Zillman 10.
TOP MINUTES (forwards): Bird 80, Friend 69, McQueen 64, James 54, Taia 49, Paasi 45, Douglas 39, Pulu 38, Shillington 32, Mortimer 9.