Probably the most committed defensive effort by a Titans under-20s team went without reward in Auckland today with the Warriors scoring a 78th minute try to beat the Gold Training Titans 14-12.
The Titans came from 10-0 behind after 13 minutes to lead 12-10 into the final two minutes despite making 100 more tackles than their opponents after just 25 minutes and repelling wave after wave of Warriors’ attack on their line.
But the inspirational defensive effort was countered by poor errors with the ball which saw them have only 39 per cent of possession over the 80 minutes. The Titans only carried the ball into the Warriors’ half five times in the second half of the match but turned it over each time.
In the end it was from the set off one of those errors in Warriors’ territory that led to the home side making one final raid. They shifted the ball and left winger Matt Faitatoa was given an overlap and scored in a heart-breaking moment for the Titans who had tackled themselves to a standstill.
“It was a really tough effort defensively and they stuck in all game but errors at crucial times just ruined our chances,” coach Ben Woolf said.
“We didn’t get up their end very often and too often when we did we made errors early in the tackle count. But I’m very proud of the effort.”
The Warriors scored two tries in the opening 12 minutes through lock Joseph Price try from dummy half after the Titans went into the Warriors’ territory on the back of a penalty but lost the ball while shifting to the right early in the tackle count and the Warriors raced 60 metres from the drop.
Two minutes later left centre Junior Pauga scored and it was no converted, for 10-0.
The Titans struck back soon after when five-eighth Josh Ralph dummied and stood up defence and ran over from 25 metres. Tyronne Roberts-Davis converted to put the Titans in the match at 10-6 despite having 30 per cent of the ball.
They lost possession on a tough knock on call when they next went into the Warriors’ quarter but next chance, after a great hit-up by one of their best, Max King, halfback AJ Brimson’s chip-kick was spilled by Warriors and Gold Coast had a back to back set from scrum 10 metres out. King had made 29 tackles at that stage yet still carted the ball up strongly.
Yet offside defence on Brimson was not detected and ball was lost. Soon after the Titans looked for a try to give them a lead but it didn’t come.
Just five minutes into the second half fullback Brian Kelly went off injured, but returned later in the half, but the Titans began the half stronger than their opponents and were rewarded when big Jerome Veve crashed over
It was 11 minutes into the second half when Jerome Veve crashed over to give the Titans the lead with Roberts-Davis’ conversion to make it 14-12.
One more try would have broken the Warriors’ spirit but the Titans were their own worst enemies, twice failing to finds touch with penalty kicks and then losing the ball in the tackle one off the ruck.
The Titans continued to repel attacking raid after raid and almost held on … almost.
In the end they will look at crucial errors, balls lost in the tackle early in the count and twice failing to find touch from penalty kicks, to have denied them reflecting on one of the gutsiest winning efforts in the club’s history.