The Aquis Gold Coast Titans have suffered a hard-fought 32-16 loss to the reigning premiers the North Queensland Cowboys in front of a 21,495 strong crowd at 1300SMILES Stadium tonight.
The Titans now face a nervous wait as they need the Canberra Raiders to defeat the ninth placed Wests Tigers outfit tomorrow afternoon if they are to retain their position in the top-eight and play their first finals series since 2010.
If the Raiders defeat the Tigers, the Titans will finish the regular season in eighth position and will face the Brisbane Broncos in a do-or-die Queensland derby in the first week of finals next week.
The Titans were under pressure early in the contest with Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote’s left-boot leading to two early tries to give the home-side the 12-0 lead before a late first-half surge by the Titans reduced the half-time deficit back to 12-6.
The Titans managed to claw back into the contest and trailed 20-12 going into the final 25 minutes but the class of the Cowboys outfit was on display in the final stanza with skipper Jonathon Thurston guiding his side around the field beautifully to post two late tries on their way to the 32-16 win.
The Cowboys opened the scoring in the fifth minute after Justin O’Neill out-leapt the Titans defence to reel in the Coote cross-field kick and get the ball down. With Thurston adding the extras, the Cowboys took a 6-0 lead.
It went from bad-to-worse for the Titans in the following set with David Mead being forced from the field for a concussion test after a big collision in a tackle on Kane Linnett.
The Cowboys extended their lead in the 19th minute with Antonio Winterstein cleaning up the scraps after Jarryd Hayne failed to defuse the Coote grubber kick close to the line. Thurston added the extras to give the home-side a 12-0 lead after 20minutes.
The Titans were forced to do a mountain of defence in the following ten minutes with the Cowboys earning multiple repeat sets but the Titans’ defence held strong to hold the Cowboys out.
The Titans were rewarded for their defensive efforts in the 31st minute and posted their first points of the night through Mead who returned to the field after passing the head injury assessment test. On the last play, Tyrone Roberts got a pressure pass away to Nathan Friend to put in a deft cross-field kick for Mead to pluck the ball out of the air and plant it down before Roberts converted to reduce the deficit back to 12-6.
The Titans had one last play on the Cowboys line before the half-time siren but despite some razzle-dazzle footy were unable to get across the line and went into the break trailing 12-6.
Both sides started the half strongly but it was the Cowboys who broke the deadlock in the 48th minute through a barnstorming Gavin Cooper who ran a clever inside line to break through the defence and score under the posts to give Thurston an easy conversion and the Cowboys a 18-6 lead.
With the momentum in their favour the Cowboys continued to threaten the Titans’ line and when they received a penalty close to the line in the 53rd minute they opted to kick the penalty-goal to extend their lead out beyond two converted tries at 20-6.
A penalty for a late tackle on Ash Taylor put the Titans on the attack and they took full advantage in the 56th minute through Ryan James who barged his way across the line for his 11th try for the year to break the record for most tries in the season for a prop-forward. With Roberts adding the extras the Titans reeled the score-line back to 20-12.
But with the large home-crowd behind them, the Cowboys turned the momentum back in their favour in the 66th minute through James Tamou who cut back in-field to catch the Titans scrambling defence short to get the ball down under the posts gifting Thurston an easy kick for a 26-12 lead.
The Titans turned defence into attack in the 69th minute with Konrad Hurrell taking an intercept on his own 10metre line before racing 90metres down-field to score in the corner and reduce the deficit back to 26-16 with ten minutes remaining.
The Cowboys defence held strong going into the final ten minutes of play and they extended they finished the match in style with Cooper crossing for his second-try of the night to give the side the 32-16 victory and the top-four finish.
With the Titans currently sitting in eighth position on the competition ladder, they will play finals football next weekend if the Raiders can beat the Tigers tomorrow. If that happens, the Titans likely opponent will be the Brisbane Broncos in what will be a do-or-die Queensland Finals derby.
North Queensland Cowboys 32 (G Cooper 2, J O’Neill, A Winterstein, J Tamou tries; J Thurston 6 goals) defeated Gold Coast Titans 16 (D Mead, R James, K Hurrell tries; T Roberts 2 goals)