A spirited performance by the Aquis Gold Coast Titans has fallen short as the side went down 32-26 in a thrilling encounter against the North Queensland Cowboys at Cbus Super Stadium tonight.
Despite the Cowboys having 80% of the possession in the opening stanza of the match, the Titans managed a late first-half comeback with Dale Copley and Tyrone Roberts crossing for tries to go into the half-time break trailing 20-12.
The Titans crossed first in the second-half to find themselves in the contest but the class of the Cowboys attack proved too strong as the game turned into an arm-wrestle with forward Coen Hess crossing for a double to give the side an unattainable 26-16 lead after 70 minutes of play.
But the Titans continued to compete and gave the 17,647 strong crowd an exciting finish crossing for two tries in the final five minutes to reduce the full-time deficit back to 32-26.
It was the Cowboys who opened the scoring in the fourth minute of the match with skipper Jonathan Thurston cleaning up the scraps of a deft Jake Granville grubber before converting the try to give his side a 6-0 lead.
The Cowboys extended their lead in the 11th minute through a Thurston penalty-goal to scoot out to an 8-0 lead.
The Cowboys continued to dominate the early momentum and possession but were unable to break the Titans’ defensive line and again opted to take the conversion when they received a penalty in the 19th minute to take a 10-0 lead.
It wasn’t until the 23rd minute that the Titans got their first attacking set and they took full advantage to force a drop-out before going one-better in the following set with Dale Copley crossing for his first try in Titans colours. With Ash Taylor adding the extras the deficit was reduced to 10-6.
The Titans went back-to-back with Tyrone Roberts crossing for a razzle-dazzle try in the 30th minute. It started with a Kane Elgey inside pass to Roberts who threw a short-pass to Paasi before backing up and supporting the offload to cross next to the posts giving Taylor an easy conversion and the side a 12-10 lead.
But the Cowboys hit-back in the 35th minute through debutant Gideon Gela-Mosby who snuck back inside the Titans’ defence to cross in the corner and give the Cowboys a slim 14-12 lead.
The Cowboys capitalised on a repeat-set in the dying minutes of the half to extend their lead with Kalyn Ponga taking advantage of some broken-field play to slice through and score untouched next to the posts. With Thurston adding the extras, the Cowboys took a 20-12 lead into the half-time break.
The Titans lost Agnatius Paasi for the second-half with the forward succumbing to a shoulder injury.
After a see-sawing affair, it was the Titans who broke the deadlock in the 55th minute with Roberts producing a great cut-out pass to his namesake Tyronne Roberts-Davis to superman dive and plant the ball down in the corner to reduce the deficit back to 20-16.
The momentum had swung in the Titans favour and they forced repeat sets on the Cowboys line but were unable to convert possession into points.
The Cowboys were rewarded for their defence in the 63rd minute with Hess barging his way through four Titans defenders to plant the ball down next to the posts. With Thurston adding the extras the Cowboys took a 26-16 lead going into the final 16 minutes.
The Titans got across the line in the 70th minute after Konrad Hurrell cleaned up the scraps of a Taylor bomb but the bunker ruled there were two in the tackle when Hurrell took possession of the ball.
From the resulting penalty, the Cowboys went the length of the field to put the match beyond doubt with Hess grabbing his second try of the night before Thurston converted for a 32-16 lead going into the final eight minutes.
Despite this, the Titans continued to fight until the end and were rewarded in the final minutes of the match with Copley crossing for his second try of the night to reduce the deficit back to 32-20.
The Titans finished the match strongly with new recruit Daniel Vidot cleaning up the scraps of a drop-ball to score in the corner before Taylor converted to reduce the full-time deficit back to 32-26.
The Titans will head across the ditch next week when they take on the New Zealand Warriors on Sunday.
North Queensland Cowboys 32 (C Hess 2, J Thurston, G Gela-Mosby, K Ponga tries; J Thurston 6 goals) defeated Gold Coast Titans 26 (D Copley 2, T Roberts, T Roberts-Davis, D Vidot tries; A Taylor 3 goals)