Wests Tigers have suffered a heartbreaking 27-20 loss to the Gold Coast Titans from their Round 13 clash on Friday night at Leichhardt Oval.
Trailing 19-2 mid-way through the second half, Wests Tigers roared back into the match with a blistering spell of attacking football and incredibly took the lead late in the match, before a try and penalty saw the Titans sneak home by seven points in the end.
Boosted by the pre-game inclusion of Manaia Cherrington and Nathan Milone — who making their first-grade debut — Wests Tigers took an early lead through the boot of Pat Richards after Ryan James was penalised for taking out Nathan Milone late, giving the home side a 2-0 advantage after five minutes of play.
The visitors would get on the board shortly after, though, with a quick play-the-ball from Ben Ridge despite seemingly walking off the mark allowing Aidan Sezer space close to the line, with the playmaker stepping his way through to score.
Sezer then converted his own try for a 6-2 lead after 11 minutes of play.
The Titans extended their lead in the 17th minute when a cut-out ball from Kane Elgey found Anthony Don down the right wing, who drew James Tedesco in before passing back on the inside for the halfback to score close to the posts.
Sezer would convert the try for a 12-2 lead, but it would come at a cost for the visitors, who would see Elgey carried from the field with an ankle injury.
Tedesco threatened to get on the scoreboard in the 23rd minute when a back-line move saw him go agonisingly close out on the right edge, but a great cover tackle from James stopped the Camden Rams junior just short of the line.
After being on the field for just a few minutes, Cherrington looked to have scored Wests Tigers first try of the night in the 31st minute when he darted over from dummy half. However, after originally ruling a try, the video referee overturned the decision with the Junior Kiwi hooker ruled to have been held up over the line.
Wests Tigers would continue to throw plenty at the visitors, with a dangerous chance involving Richards and Tedesco called back for a forward pass.
That decision would prove costly for the home side, with the Titans taking advantage of the improved field position to work the ball down field and extend their margin through James Roberts, who sped over to score after 38 minutes.
Sezer was unable to land the sideline conversion on the stroke of half-time, giving the visitors a commanding 16-2 lead at the break at Leichhardt Oval.
Opening the second half with a surprising penalty goal and field goal to Sezer, the Titans held a 19-2 lead after 58 minutes before Wests Tigers clawed their way back into the contest with a try to Chris Lawrence after 59 minutes of play.
A strong individual finish from James Tedesco cut the margin to 19-14 after 62 minutes of play before the home side sensationally took a 20-19 lead in the 66th minute when a cross-field kick was knocked back for Lawrence to score.
However, the joy would be short-lived for Jason Taylor’s side as a strong break from Roberts saw Anthony Don cross next to the posts after 73 minutes of play, with Sezer adding the extras to give the Titans a 25-20 lead.
And after a controversially knock-on was ruled against Dene Halatau despite the Titans appearing to have raked the ball free, Gold Coast saw out the remainder of the match on the attack, with Daniel Mortimer adding a late penalty goal following a high shot from Sauaso Sue on Sezer, who was taken from the field.
That saw the scoreline read 27-20 at full-time, with Wests Tigers players now looking to bounce back when they take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs minus their Origin stars in their next match, on Friday, June 12 at ANZ Stadium.
FULL TIME — Gold Coast Titans 27 (Sezer, Elgey, Roberts, Don tries; Sezer 5/5 goals; Sezer field goal) def. Wests Tigers 20 (Lawrence 2, Tedesco tries; Richards 4/4 goals).