Ben Woolf’s switching of Brian Kelly from wing to fullback proved effective in the first outing for our Holden Cup side today with the elusive utility scoring a hat-trick of tries in the second half to inspire a 34-16 season opening victory for the Titans.
The win was based on physical defence with players turning up time after time when under pressure. We squandered ball in good possession at times but Woolf would have been happy with the energy and effort of his side which has far greater experience than the team he took on in his under-20s debut season as coach in 2014.
It took 25 minutes for the first score of the game but the Titans gradually gained the upper hand and scored three tries in the next 25 minutes of play either side of half-time.
And the scoring started with left centre Jed Cartwright, the son of foundation coach John Cartwright, on debut in the Holden Cup. He was fed the ball on the short side two rucks after a penalty and took two defenders over.
Seven minutes later right centre and co-captain Shaun Hudson was in on the other side of the field, put into space by a good ball from Karl Lawton. Brayden Torpy converted and the teams went to the dressing rooms at 10-0 Titans.
Our boys had the dream start to the second half with Kelly scoring in the right corner after good hands gave him a tight run to the line, making it 14-0.
Kelly was in the action again when he put a neat cross-field kick into the in-goal and left winger Christian Mika leapt high over the Tigers defenders to score on debut too. Torpy’s conversion made it 20-0 just 10 minutes into the second half.
However the Tigers were back into the match with two tries in five minutes to be behind 20-12 after 59 minutes as our guys’ intensity dropped after being so solid defensively, especially on their own line.
But Kelly, enjoying the freedom to pop up anywhere on the field from fullback after last season playing on the left wing, scored a quick double to give the home side a 28-12 lead with 12 minutes remaining. Both times he turned up on the right and first time and had the evasive skills to beat the defence from close range and then took advantage of a clear overlap to complete his hat-trick.
Bench player Esan Marsters scored for the Tigers with five to go but by then the Titans were too far ahead. Skipper Shaun Hudson latched onto a Lawton cross kick near the Tigers line with just over a minute to go and he fed Shane Wright who completed the scoring.
The victory was a well-deserved one and set a good platform for our side. They scrambled enthusiastically most of the game and their fitness and focus shone through.
Lawton looked dangerous at five-eighth, Hudson and Parahi Wilson led the side really well and there was good go forward in the middle with the Titans looking to have the edge in fitness.
Titans 34 (B. Kelly 3, Cartwright, Hudson, Mika, Wright tries; Torpy 3 goals) beat Wests Tigers 16 (J. Liddle, M. Cerruto, E. Marsters tries; El Levido 2 goals).