A strong second half by an NZ Warriors side celebrating Simon Mannering’s 250th club appearance has sunk an under-manned Aquis Titans at Mt Smart Stadium.
The Titans lost a second player to a dislocated ankle in successive weeks when debutant Karl Lawton, who had played strongly, being taken off on a medicab seven minutes into the second half.
Also like the previous week against the Raiders, Gold Coast were left to play almost all the second half with 15 men after Ryan Simpkins contributed just nine minutes off the bench before being concussed. Last Sunday it was Eddy Pettybourne who did not return after being replaced in the first minute of the second half.
The brave Titans battled on and led 14-12 after 52 minutes before the Warriors scored two converted tries and two penalty goals in the final 19 minutes.
After getting the perfect start to the match from a runaway try by Josh Hoffman, playing fullback, the rest of the first half was even and the teams left at 10-all.
Hoffman, at the back for the second week in place of the injured William Zillman, picked up a bouncing ball from the kick only 10 metres from his own line and the Warriors defence just opened for him and he ran through the line without a hand being laid on him.
When he came to fullback David Fusitua, he beat him with a left foot step, and ran the remaining 40 metres unopposed. Tyrone converted for 6-0 after just three minutes.
The Warriors struck back with their own against-the-run-of-play try just seven minutes later. After Agnatius Paasi had offloaded to Nathan Peats who passed to Roberts and, with little on, he threw a looping long pass to the left which Warriors centre Blake Ayshford latched onto. He ran 80 metres to score.
Isaac Luke converted to make it 6-all.
In the 18th minute Nene Macdonald was in for his sixth try of the season when he leapt high and outside of Tuimoala Lolohea to take a Roberts’ bomb to the left corner. That gave the Titans a 10-6 lead with Roberts’ kick hitting the right upright.
In the 34th minute Lolohea levelled the scores. Shaun Johnson broke loose for the first time and the ball shifted to the left after he found support. To save a possible try, Titans winger Anthony Don deflected the ball and NZ had the scrum feed.
From the set Lolohea crossed in the right corner, just grounding the ball before he got the ball down.
The second half started terribly for the Titans. After it was ruled at the break that Ryan Simpkins wouldn’t return because of concussion, debutant Karl Lawton was left in terrible pain with a broken leg seven minutes into the half.
He was taken off on a stretcher by medicab, leaving the Titans with 15 men.
The teams traded penalty goals in the first 19 minutes of the second half for the scores to be locked again at 12-all.
Another penalty goal after Greg Bird was penalised for holding onto 250-game man Simon Mannering after tackled, saw the Warriors go ahead 14-12.
Then, in the 66th minute, Shaun Johnson scored one of his breathtaking tries from half-way that sunk the Titans. He drifted right and his show and go fooled Cameron Cullen who went up to stop the pass, then Johnson beat Zeb Taia – by then playing right centre – with pace, then fended Leivaha Pulu and beat another to score.
Luke’s conversion made it 20-12 after the Titans had led 12-10 just 14 minutes earlier.
Former Titans Bodene Thompson scored from a set play on the six minutes after with Luke converting to make it 26-12 as the tide had changed dramatically in a matter of 20 minutes.
A Cullen try, a great individual effort from 15 metres when he stepped, dummied then rolled out of the tackle in-goal, was good reward for a determined effort in his third NRL appearance. Roberts converted for 26-18.
A Johnson field goal with two minutes remaining ensured there was no miracle comeback.
Warriors 27 (Ayshford, Lolohea, Johnson, Thompson tries; Luke 5 goals, Johnson field goal) beat Aquis Titans 18 (Hoffman, Macdonald, Cullen tries; Roberts 3 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Crowd: 15,107