The Aquis Gold Coast Titans have again fallen just short after coming from behind, this time going down to the St George Illawarra Dragons by five points at Cbus Super Stadium.
The Dragons went down 19-14 and being behind 18-6 at half-time and not being able to take advantage of several second half scoring chances while keeping the Dragons scoreless. And that second session came with two players down after Daniel Mortimer retired at half-time with a hamstring injury and Eddy Pettybourne's terrible luck continued when he lasted just nine minutes of the first half before suffering a compound dislocation of the finger.
The effort can not be denied. But the Titans played too laterally at times, need to fine tune the last play kicks and overcome the defensive reads near their line which led to two of the Dragons' three tries. The other was a stroke of good fortune only, coming from a grubber kick that rebounded off the goalpost pad.
The Titans again conceded the first try, for the sixth successive match. In the seventh minute Gareth Widdop put on a left foot step to beat Leivaha Pulu, who started in place of Chris McQueen, and Daniel Mortimer, from 10 metres. He converted for an early 6-0 lead.
Agnatius Paasi took advantage of a run of possession go score a try in the 13th minute to get Titans quick back on track.
Josh McCrone dropped the kick off from the Widdop kick, giving the Titans possession from the scrum. After two penalties and a six again after Josh Dugan put a foot out to stop a Daniel Mortimer grubber near the line, Paasi went over.
He received a ball at the line from Mortimer and looked tacked, but he was still on his knees and was able to crawl over the line under the posts. Ash Taylor converted for 6-all.
A bullocking run upfield by Dragons fullback Dugan put the Dragons on the attack in the Titans half. Three tackles later the Titans’ left edge was under pressure and McCrone redeemed himself and put in a neat grubber kick to the right corner which was scooped up by former Titans winger Kalifa Faifai Loa who scored.
Widdop converted from touch to give the Dragons a 12-6 lead.
In the 31st minute the Dragons had stroke of luck when Gareth Widdop grubbered towards the goalposts only for the ball to rebound off the pads before Zillman could get to it. The ball ricocheted straight to Jack de Belin who scored, leaving Widdop an easy conversion for an 18-6 lead.
The Titans almost started the second half in glory when a long ball by Zillman put David Mead away down the left touchline but a desperate ankle tap by Dugan saved a try. The Titans had another crack straight after but fell short.
For the first 20 minutes of the second half the Titans had chance after chance at the Dragons line but could not pick up the try to get back into the match.
Nene Macdonald leapt above everyone to take a Tyrone Roberts cross kick over the tryline but couldn’t get the ball down. Anthony Don batted back another Roberts’ kick but the ball didn’t quite go to Chris McQueen who would have scored.
The Titans had possession and position in their favour but were frustrated by bad luck or a stout Dragons’ defence.
The break the Titans needed finally came. Anthony Don took a long ball from dummy half on the first tackle after a kick return and made 30 metres. From the next ruck the ball went left and Tyrone Roberts dummied inside to Leivaha Pulu and broke the defence and ran 30 metres unopposed to score next to the posts.
Taylor converted to make it 18-12 with 12 minutes remaining.
Again the Titans created good field position and easily got into the Dragons’ end but could not come up with another breakthrough.
With just over three minutes to go Widdop landed a field goal from in front to seal victory for the Dragons, although the Titans were given one last shot.
With 56 seconds remaining Ash Taylor was flattened by Widdop and was taken off and the Titans received a penalty in front of the posts. Roberts landed the kick to give the Titans one set of tackles to try and claim a miracle win. But it was not to be.
Dragons 19 (Widdop, Faifai Loa, de Belin tries; Widdop 2 goals, field goal) beat Aquis Titans 14 (Paasi, Roberts tries; Taylor 2, Douglas goals). Crowd: 12, 215.