The Gold Coast Titans under-20s have begun the season with back-to-back victories after scoring 28 points in 27 minutes in the second half.
Behind 18-6 eight minutes after the break, the Titans took command for a 36-26 victory – the Panthers scoring in the final two minutes after the Titans had scored five unanswered second half tries.
There were many heroes as the side battled with 16 men after skipper Shaun Hudson left the field in the first 10 minutes with concussion. Five-eighth Karl Lawton scored a double and was impressive, fullback Brian Kelly was again a handful with the ball and cool under pressure, bench forward Nathan Watts was responsible for two game changing second half tries, half Braydon Torpy controlled play well and the bench of Watts, Delayne Ashby, Max Elliott and Shane Gillham all contributed when needed.
Second-rower Anthony Colman had to spend 70 minutes at right centre and combined well with Hayden Schwass inside him.
“I thought we really played tough and showed good ability to hang in there,” said coach Ben Woolf. “We knew the match was in the balance at half-time and they scored first to put more pressure on us. But our ability to grind away and control the footy – we completed 16 of 16 sets until the last couple of minutes – so their willingness to play tough for each other was the difference, and really pleasing.”
The Titans started well and twice went within a whisker of scoring, the first time Karl Lawton broke through and was tackled half a metre from the line, then in the next set Deacon Fletcher lost the ball stretching for the line. Brian Kelly also burst through into the quarter.
But it was Penrith who opened the scoring when right winger Fuimanu Enise showed tremendous pace and evasive skills to beat three defenders from 40 metres to score out wide, for a 4-0 lead after 10 minutes.
Shortly before skipper Shaun Hudson was replaced with injury and Anthony Colman had to fill in at right centre. However it was down that edge, after a good break from Hayden Schwass, that the Titans’ first try was created. After Schwass put Karl Lawton away, Jed Cartwright scored on the left from close range – his second try in his first two NYC games.
Brayden Torpy missed the conversion for the scores to remain at 4-all but it took less than five minutes for the Panthers to again go ahead, this time to left winger Josh Jay after he was given a clear overlap. The Panthers again failed to convert for an 8-4 lead, 13 minutes before the break.
Only five minutes later the Panthers scored a soft try through the middle from 20m after a piggyback penalty in the ruck, this time converted, to lead 14-4 after enjoying a flood of possession and momentum.
Two and a half minutes before the break Zac Spring was over from a well-executed set move inside the Panthers quarter, on the back of a penalty for a high shot. Torpy again missed for the scores to be 14-8 a minute from the break.
Penrith extended the lead eight minutes into the second half when bench forward Paea Pua took three players over two rucks after a penalty, and it was converted for the Panthers to lead 20-8.
The Titans composed themselves and went upfield with a couple of penalties and Nathan Watts took advantage when he went through the line and stretched out with two defenders on him to score a try next to the posts. Delayne Ashby converted to bring the lead back to six at 20-14.
The Panthers looked set to score again but Zac Spring intercepted the final pass on right edge and ran 50m. After a penalty for the tackler holding on, Watts ran into space to rucks later and scored his second in the same spot he went over five minutes earlier. Ashby converted to level the scores at 20-all.
The momentum continued and after getting upfield on the back of another couple of penalties, five-eighth Karl Lawton showed surprising strength to wiggle out of the grasp of two tacklers from dummy half and crash over. Ashby converted for 26-20.
Soon after Ashby intercepted a pass under the Titans’ posts on the final tackle and ran 50m before being run down. But from the set Jed Cartwright scored his second try down the left edge after being put into space. Deacon Fletcher this time took the kick but missed.
Yet it took just a couple of minutes for the massive Titans rally to continue. After a clean break by James Iodice, Fletcher chipped ahead and the ball stood up in the in-goal for Lawton to retrieve. This time Fletcher was on target and the Titans had scored their 28th successive point after being behind 20-8 and with the Panthers looking to be enjoying all the momentum.
At 36-20 the match was sealed but Panthers’ impressive fullback Tyrone May scored on the right side, with Dylan Edwards converting with a minute to go.
Gold Coast Titans 36 (Cartwright 2, Lawton 2, Watts 2, Spring tries; Ashby 3 goals, Fletcher goal) beat Penrith Panthers 26 (Enise, Jay, Pua, Ellis, May tries; Edwards 3 goals) at Carrington Park, Bathurst.