Richards field goal gets Tigers home
The kids may be the future but a pair of 30-year-olds proved the difference as the Wests Tigers ran down a brave Titans outfit 19-18 in thrilling circumstances at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday night.
In a cruel twist of irony given what they have been through over the pre-season the Titans lost their opening game of the year by the exact same margin by which they ended 2014, with Pat Richards launching a dagger into Gold Coast hearts with a 32-metre field goal as the clock counted down to zero.
Richards' winning play came when half Luke Brooks passed back to his right with two seconds remaining, captain Robbie Farah happy to have the 33-year-old's right boot as part of his team's weaponry.
"It's not the first time he's done it. It's nice when you've got someone of his ability with the boot, not only the field goal but a couple of conversions from the sideline that gave us a bit of breathing space," Farah said.
The man himself – who now boasts 39 points from two visits to Robina to face the Titans – was more pleased with the two competition points for his team than his solitary point to win it.
"Luke Brooks helped me a fair bit there. He's hit a few last year so they obviously took a lot of the heat and I was just lucky enough that I connected all right with it and it went over," Richards said.
Following the announcement that Daly Cherry-Evans would be joining the club in 2016 the Titans discovered that the good news cycle lasts just 24 hours but coach Neil Henry was justifiably proud of their effort.
"Very disappointing to lose with a couple of seconds to go when we've fought from behind to come back into a game and we didn't take our opportunities in attack a couple of comes," Henry said.
"But I think everyone who was watching the game and the fans that turned up have seen a committed team that's had a real dig today and a little bit unlucky.
"If they can walk away from here with that in their heads that will get them back here next time so I'm proud of the boys for that, but our execution needs to be better and we need to be able to prevent a few of those tries that were scored."
After the Titans took a 12-6 lead into half-time the Tigers struck twice in the space of nine minutes midway through the second half to give themselves an 18-12 advantage with 20 minutes to play.
Richards grabbed his second of the night – again courtesy of sparkling hands from centre Tim Simona – in the 50th minute, and on the back of a Robbie Farah 40/20 kick in the 58th minute the Tigers hit the front when James Tedesco shouldered his way through an attempted tackle from James Roberts.
But from that point the drama only intensified.
Tigers five-eighth Mitchell Moses was placed on report for a spectacular high shot when he was wrong-footed by William Zillman on a Titans counter attack, and a minute later Roberts got his second try of the evening.
Having made a meal of the play-the-ball at dummy half, Roberts simply spun to the blind side, evaded the tackle of Luke Brooks and was too far gone for Simona to rein him in, Aidan Sezer's sideline conversion setting up an enthralling final 10 minutes.
Sezer had a shot to break the deadlock in the 77th minute but had his kick smothered and an error by a lion-hearted Nate Myles on the Tigers' 30m line with 45 seconds to play gave the visitors all the time they needed to work Richards into position for the match-winner.
The under-manned Titans had opened the scoring in the sixth minute following a weight of possession in Tigers territory when a deft kick by Daniel Mortimer found space for a flying James Roberts.
The first 10 minutes saw the Titans have a mortgage on the Steeden with 68 per cent of possession but when the Tigers earned back-to-back penalties of their own they had two good shots at the Titans try-line.
Curtis Sironen was the first to come up empty handed when he spilt the ball over the line from a short ball by Robbie Farah in the 15th minute and then Luke Brooks was called back for a forward pass when a one-two with James Tedesco opened the Titans defence in the middle of the ruck.
Tedesco came up inches short in the 25th minute and from the very next play – and with his side struggling to form their defensive line – Ryan James threw a mitt out to bring the Tigers' attack unstuck, his penance 10 minutes in the sin bin.
The Tigers were quick to take advantage with a shift to the left and a tip-on from Tim Simona put Richards into space and the big winger powered through attempted tackles from Mortimer and Josh Hoffman to score wide out, his conversion giving the Tigers a 6-4 lead.
Despite being a man down the Titans levelled the scores in the 34th minute courtesy of an Aidan Sezer penalty goal and then took a handy advantage into the break when they scored a minute before the break.
On the back of a great return of the kick-off from Hoffman that earned his team a penalty on the 30m line, the Titans twice went to a rampaging James on the left edge before coming up trumps on their third attempt, the big second-rower crashing through the tackle of Kevin Naiqama, Kyle Lovett and Tedesco to put the home side in front.
Wests Tigers 19 (Pat Richards 2, James Tedesco tries; Richards 3 goals) def. Gold Coast Titans 18 (James Roberts 2, Ryan James tries; Aidan Sezer 3 goals). Crowd: 14,319. Half-time: 12-6 Titans. Sin-bin: Ryan James (Titans, 25th minute). On report: Ryan James (Titans, 56th), Mitchell Moses (Tigers, 68th), Martin Taupau (Tigers, 76th).