A treble to halfback Josh Ralph has helped guide the Gold Training Gold Coast Titans under-20s to an emphatic 36-34 victory over the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium today.
The young Titans went into the match as underdogs against the sixth placed Tigers and it looked like it was going to be a long day when the side found themselves trailing 22-6 after 25 minutes of play.
But Ben Woolf’s men put in a courageous effort scoring two late tries to reduce the deficit back to 22-16 going into the half-time break.
The Titans went on with the match in the second-half with Ralph grabbing his hat-trick and outside backs Phillip Sami and John Olive grabbing two tries as the side held-off the fast finishing Tigers outfit to secure their ninth win of the season and keep their top-eight hopes alive.
It was the Tigers who opened the scoring in the fifth minute through winger Obed Karwhin who finished off a lovely backline play to score in the corner and give his side an early 4-0 lead.
The Titans hit-back in the 13th minute after Max King produced a lovely offload to fullback AJ Brimson who made a break up the middle before drawing-and-passing to Ralph to cross under the posts. With Josh Rogers converting from in-front, the Titans took a slime 6-4 lead.
But an error from the resulting set gifted the Tigers prime attacking position and they took full advantage with second-rower Mark McCormack crossing next to the posts after barging through some poor Titans defence. With Roman Ioelu adding the extras, the Tigers lead 10-6.
The Tigers went back-to-back after opting to run it on the last play and they found some space down the right edge before getting a ball away to prop Jakob Giles to score next to the posts gifting Ioela an easy conversion and the side the 16-6 lead after 20minutes of play.
The Titans were made to pay for their poor discipline in the 24th minute after successive penalties put the Tigers on the attack and they extended their lead through prop Taniela Paseka who steamrolled his way through the defence to score. With Ioela converting, the Tigers shout out to a 22-6 lead.
The Titans managed to get into the Tigers attacking zone and were rewarded for their effort in the 29th minute when Rogers held up a deft ball for centre Sami who ran a brave line to cross to reduce the deficit back to 22-10.
With the possession swinging back to their favour, the Titans hit-back with through Ralph who sliced through the Tigers defence to grab his second-try of the day and gift Rogers an easy conversion to take the Titans into the half-time break trailing 22-16.
A penalty from the kick-off put the Titans on the attack in their opening set of the half and they tied the scores up at 22-all after Sami ran another strong line to cross for his second try of the day before Rogers converted.
From the resulting kick-off, the Titans took the lead for the first time of the match after going end-to-end from a Brimson break before this time drawing-and-passing to John Olive to score in the corner in his return match from a broken collarbone. With Rogers kick sailing wide the Titans were forced to settle for the 26-22 lead with 35minutes remaining.
The Titans were again forced to pay for their ill-discipline in the 52nd minute when back-to-back penalties put the Tigers on the attack and they capitalised through fullback Daniel Roberts who forced his way through the defence to score next to the posts. With Ioelu converting, the Tigers went into the final 25 minutes with a 28-26 lead.
The Titans turned defence into attack in the 57th minute when Ralph intercepted a Tigers pass to race 90 metres downfield to score untouched under the posts for this third try of the day. With Rogers adding the extras, the Titans lead 32-28.
With the momentum in their favour, the Titans extended their lead in the 62nd minute with Olive grabbing his second try after showing great desperation to ground a grubber in-goal and give his side a 36-28 lead.
But the Tigers weren’t going down without a fight and they hit-back in the 67th minute when crafty hooker Jacob Liddle sliced his way across the line from dummy-half to give Ioelu an easy kick to reduce the Titans lead back to 36-34 going into the final 12 minutes.
The Titans managed to hold-off a fast-finishing Tigers outfit who had several attempts to crack the defence but were unable to get across with the Titans coming away with the 36-34 win.
The young Titans will look to continue their late run to make the top-eight when they take on the Newcastle Knights next week.
Gold Coast Titans 36 (J Ralph 3, P Sami 2, J Olive 2 tries; J Rogers 4 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 34 (O Karwhin, M McCormack, J Giles, T Paseka, D Roberts, J Liddle tries; R Ioelu 5 goals)