The Gold Coast Titans' loss to the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday night had a certain ring of inevitability to it. After defending for most of the first 20 minutes the Titans finally broke and the Cowboys scored their first try, and continued to pin the visitors in their own end for the remainder of the half.
The Titans eventually scored through lazy Cowboys defence, and a penalty goal a short while later saw the exhausted Gold Coast side go into halftime with an unlikely 8-6 lead. Despite this motivator they were unable to go on with it in the second half, as the energetic Cowboys proved they had more fuel left in the tank, and the Titans looked like they were running on empty 15 minutes into the second half.
Titans coach Neil Henry was happy with the defensive effort shown by his side in the first half, but acknowledges that their woes were largely self-created. Failed raids that resulted in players being taken out of the field of play and unforced errors kept the Cowboys in the Titans' end of the field as much as Jake Granville's grubber kicks to earn repeat sets.
"We found quite a few ways to give possession back to the Cowboys tonight, whether we were running it into touch a couple of times or we give two points because we can't get a goal-line dropout done in the required time and giving obvious penalties away, tackling the man in the air with the ball," Henry said.
"They're all preventable, we talked about it, we need to be accountable for that part of the decision making. With the ball and without the ball, they're preventable penalties and until we do that you can't beat teams when you're expected to do that amount of defensive work."
The Titans' fatigue showed in the second half, when they added six penalties to their first half tally of four, never giving themselves a chance to attack the Cowboys' line.
The loss does come with its bright spots, and the Titans' ability to cling to life will serve them well if they can pull a complete performance together against a strong team, as they did against the Melbourne Storm in Round 10, when they won 38-36.
"The boys certainly hang in, but we're disappointed that we have to hang in because a lot of that hanging in is our own doing," Henry said.
"We're trying to get into a bit of a grind and a bit of an arm-wrestle, but we don't do that well enough to get into that situation."