An unlikely double to captain Ryan James was not enough to stop the TFH Titans from suffering an 18-16 loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Cbus Super Stadium tonight.
In a scrappy affair, the Titans were unable to get any real momentum throughout the contest and were on the wrong end of a 13-4 penalty count with Keegan Hipgrave spending two stints in the sin-bin and utility forwards Max King and Moeaki Fotuaiki both succumbing to injuries.
On the back of James first try, the home-side managed to go into the half-time break locked up at 10-all but a poor start to the second half saw the Titans trail 18-10 going into the final stanza.
With the game hanging in the balance, the inspirational James stepped up to put the Titans back in the contest by barging over for his second try in the 60th minute to reduce the margin back to 18-16 and ensure for an exciting finish for the 11,833 strong crowd.
But the Titans were unable to break through the Titans the resolute Rabbitohs defence and were forced to settle for their eighth loss of the season.
The Titans opened the scoring in the fourth minute with Phillip Sami cleaning up the scraps of an Ash Taylor cross-field kick to give the side an early 4-0 lead.
The Titans appeared to have extended their lead in the ninth minute when both Keegan Hipgrave and Dale Copley contested for an AJ Brimson grubber kick, but with neither able to plant the ball down they were denied the try and the Rabbitohs received a 20 metre restart.
From the resulting set, the Rabbitohs marched down the field and Sam Burgess, playing in his 150th appearance, got across the line only to be denied by the bunker with his brother George taking out a defender in the lead-up.
But there was no stopping the Rabbitohs in the 12th minute with a classy backline play resulting in Adam Douehi stepping through the defence to score under the posts to give Adam Reynolds an easy conversion and the away-side a slim 6-4 lead.
The Rabbitohs were denied by the bunker in the 17th minute with hooker Robbie Farah knocking the ball on as he darted across the line from dummy-half. Despite the no-try it was still bad news for the Titans with Hipgrave sin-binned for repeated infringements after being ruled to be in an offside position when making the try-saving tackle.
With the extra man and a full set up their sleeves, the Rabbitohs capitalised with Cody Walker showing great speed to slice his way through the defensive line to score out-wide and extend the lead out to 10-4.
The Titans hit-back in the 32nd minute through skipper Ryan James who barged his way across the line carrying three defenders before planting the ball down next to the posts. With Michael Gordon adding the extras the Titans levelled the scores up at 10-allgoing into the half-time break.
It was a frantic start to the half for the Rabbitohs with a Farah break piggy-backing them up the field before being gifted a penalty in-front of the posts and opting to take the kick at goal to extend their lead out to 12-10 after 43 minutes.
The Titans were dealt another blow in the following set with Hipgrave being sent for a second stint in the sin-bin on the back of repeated penalties.
The Rabbitohs utilised their extra man to create an overlap on the right edge to extend their lead through Alex Johnston who supported well to grab a Campbell Graham offload and score adjacent to the posts. With Reynolds converting, the Rabbitohs shot out to an 18-10 lead with just over 30 minutes remaining.
The Titans looked to have hit-back in the 53rd minute when Sami collected a deft Taylor kick but the winger's right hand touched the dead-ball line in the process of planting the ball down.
In the resulting set the Titans lost utility forward Moeaki Fotuaika to the HIA following a heavy collision in attempting to make a tackle on Robert Jennings.
Some great defence by the Titans to force Reynolds into touch coming out of trouble put them on the attack and they took full advantage with James charging close to the line again to force his way across and bag his second try of the night. Gordon converted to reduce the deficit back to 18-16 with 18 minutes remaining.
The Titans had several opportunities to cross the stripe and regain the lead but were unable to get across the line.
The Titans will look to get back in the winner's circle when they take on the Canterbury Bulldogs at Belmore next Saturday.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 (A Douehi . C Walker, A Johnston tries; A Reynolds 3 goals) defeated Gold Coast Titans 16 (R James 2, P Sami, tries; M Gordon 2 goals)