In a tale of two halves, the Gold Coast Titans have fallen agonisingly short of the Manly Sea Eagles 26-18 in a nail-biter at 4 Pines Park.
Despite the narrow loss, David Fifita was among one of the side's best, answering to his critics with a barnstorming performance, involved in three of the four tries scored which included a spectacular four-pointer of his own.
The visitors made things tough for themselves in the opening 40, trailing 24-4 at the break, before once again keeping the opposition scoreless in the second half whilst clawing back the lead; falling just shy of the two competition points against one of the NRL's top teams.
Match: Sea Eagles v Titans
Round 6 -
Venue: 4 Pines Park, Sydney
Coming out of the blocks firing, the Titans had a number of opportunities in the opening ten minutes, including a chance being put down by Patrick Herbert from a Toby Sexton cross-field kick and Phil Sami unable to grip an AJ Brimson cut-out pass.
To rub salt into the wounds, Manly went down the other end of the field and through a well-timed Daly Cherry-Evans grubber, Haumole Olakau'atu dived over first for the Sea Eagles to lead 6-0 in the 11th minute.
Further points to the home side came 10 minutes later when a shift from right to left led to Reuben Garrick crossing to further extend the lead to 12-0.
Things were looking ominous in the 25th minute when the Sea Eagles thought they had landed their third try of the game, but the Titans were given a reprieve with a further check from the Bunker ruling Jason Saab had pushed AJ Brimson, allowing the Titans to get out of their own end and try to wrestle back some momentum.
Titans applying the pressure early
In the 31st minute, Jamayne Isaako and Brimson partnered nicely to provide one of the defensive moments of the game, denying Olakau'atu of his second try of the game with an inspirational play to hold out the Sea Eagles, but the home side prevailed two plays later with the back-rower powering over the line to bag his double.
Points finally came for the Gold Coast with six minutes to go in the play of the match thus far, thanks to Sam Lisone playing to the line, before going out the back to Toby Sexton who allowed the beast to be unleashed... David Fifita.
The barnstorming back-rower fending off two defenders before flicking the ball to Isaako who ran through and scored his first try in the blue and gold.
Isaako and Fifita combine
The Sea Eagles added more points through Kieran Foran just before half-time, allowing the home side to lead 24-4 at half-time.
Running out of the sheds for a fresh new 40, the Titans were able to dominant field position and possession in the first 10 minutes, which eventually led to first points of the second half thanks to another strong carry from Fifita - causing Manly's defensive line to scatter.
In the next play, Sexton put up a cross-field kick from right to left for Brian Kelly to leap up high and pluck the ball out of the air, running over to score his first try in his returning match.
Kelly gets one back for the Titans
Trailing 24-8, the Titans continued to heap pressure on the Sea Eagles, combining for one of the best team tries seen this season to claim more points in the 57th minute.
Herbert offloading to Erin Clark, who then found Fifita to allow him to do what he does best... rolling over defenders to find the line - much like a carbon copy of his effort last week against the Eels.
David Fifita is outrageous
In the final 15 minutes, the Titans resurgence continued in good ball when Will Smith took on the line, holding up the ball before finding Tino Fa'asuamaleaui on his outside, who ran 20 metres untouched to bridge the gap by just six points.
In the 74th minute upon a captain's challenge, it was ruled Tino Fa'asuamaleaui affected play in an offside position, awarding a penalty 10 metres out, allowing Cherry-Evans to add the two points to push the margin out to beyond a converted try.
With 30 seconds to go, Fermor crossed the line in a Hail Mary finish which was awarded on-field, but upon further inspection by the Bunker, was overturned with the edge forward being ruled to be in-front of Sexton when he kicked the grubber.
Despite every attempt to get back on the board, time became the enemy, with the final score remaining 26-18 at the end of 80 minutes.
The Titans are back on the road next week, heading north to Townsville to face the Cowboys on Saturday afternoon.
Match: Cowboys v Titans
Round 7 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville