One thing that makes it hard to beat the giant Raiders is to let them have raid after raid at you early in the match and build momentum.
That’s what happened yesterday. And considering the obstacles the Titans confronted through injury, the effort to be beaten by eight points wasn’t so bad.
At the half-way mark the Titans had had just 30 per cent of possession and already made 60 tackles more than the Raiders.
And we had two second-rowers playing in the centres after Nathan Davis had gone off with a broken leg – Chris McLeod on the left from the start of the match and Zeb Taia going to the right after 22 minutes.
Yet when McQueen scored off a great Tyrone Roberts’ kick to the left corner and good bustle by Agnatius Paasi in the scramble for the ball, the were only behind 12-10.
But that much tacking in the first quarter or so of a game is always a chance of paying in the last 20.
Despite possession squaring up in the second half (I still can’t fathom how the stats say 50% each and Canberra had only one set extra yet the Titans made 49 more tackles) by that stage our boys had lost Eddie Pettybourne with concussion less than a minute into the second half.
And Ryan James almost made it 14 men left but was able to return from the head bin.
There have been many theories about referees’ decisions and some 50-50 moments.
The most crucial was the 12-point turnaround in the 58th minute when Taia’s pass was knocked up then regathered by Brenko Lee when a try to Anthony Don was very much on offer. Rather than the score becoming 24-14 or 24-16 it was 30-10.
The effort of a 15-man Titans to not concede another point in the remaining 22 minutes deserves credit.
Another crucial call was the lead up to Lee’s try 10 minutes earlier when Raiders centre Joey Leilua crabbed across field with no other objective but to obstruct Nene Macdonald on a chase of a kick to the left corner at 18-10. No action was taken and a 20-metre tap re-start gave the Raiders a seven tackle set and they scored in the left corner.
‘Interesting’ according to many fans who questioned it also was how the refs let play go on for quite a few plays while Davis was on obvious big trouble with his injury in the first half, then in the second half play was also allowed to go on when Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson was staggering around concussed and almost got in the way of the right-hand shift by the Titans in the lead-up to Lee’s intercept.
Anyway, the key stats from the game were – again showing Ryan James’ incredible workload and an enormous defensive effort by Douglas, are:
KEY MATCH STATS
POSSESSION: Titans 50%, Raiders 50%
COMPLETION RATE: Titans 85% (29/34), Raiders 77% (27/35)
ERRORS: Titans 5, Raiders 7.
TACKLES: Titans 304 (missed 28), Raiders 255 (missed 19)
OFFLOADS: Titans 14, Raiders 14.
LINE BREAKS: Titans 2, Raiders 3
PENALTIES: Raiders 11-10
TOP TACKLERS: Luke Douglas 42, Nathan Peats 41, Ryan James 37, Leivaha Pulu 28, Greg Bird 22, Ryan Simpkins 19, Agnatius Paasi 18, Zeb Taia 18.
TOP METRE MAKERS: Josh Hoffman 193, Ryan James 191, Greg Bird 100, Ash Taylor 104, Nene Macdonald 100, Agnatius Paasi 94
HIT-UPS/RUNS: Ryan James 22, Josh Hoffman 18, Greg Bird 15, Ash Taylor 14, Nene Macdonald 12, Luke Douglas 10, Chris McQueen 10
TOP MINUTES (forwards): James 68, Bird 64, Peats 62, Pulu 60, Douglas 58, Paasi 53, Pettybourne 13, Friend 33, Simpkins 40.