A second-half comeback has fallen just short for the Gold Coast Titans under-20s side who have suffered a 36-24 loss at the hands of the Penrith Panthers at Cbus Super Stadium this afternoon.
The young Titans found themselves trailing 26-14 midway through the second-half but sparked a comeback effort scoring two tries in two minutes, with centre Jed Cartwright bagging his second and utility Daniel Schwass crossing to reel the deficit back to 26-24.
But some late errors proved costly for the Titans with some dropped ball gifting the Panthers prime attacking position and they took full advantage to score two late tries to take the 36-24 victory.
The Titans got off to a flying start with winger Rory Humphreys scoring in just the second minute to give the Titans the early 4-0 advantage.
But the Panthers responded in the ninth minute through forward Stanton Albert who forced his way across the line before Corey Harawira-Naera added the extras to give his side a 6-4 lead.
The Panthers crossed the line in the 14th minute but were denied by the on-field referee before using their ‘captain’s challenge’ to review the decision. The video-referee ruled with the on-field decision that the Panthers lost the ball over the line.
With the momentum swinging in their favour, the Titans capitalised after Oshae Tuiasau barged his way through some scrambling Panthers defence to score next to the posts giving Cartwright an easy conversion to give the Titans a 10-6 lead after 22 minutes.
But an error by the Titans coming out of trouble gifted the Panthers a great attacking opportunity and they took full advantage with Tyrone May darting across the line from dummy-half before Harawira-Naera added the extras to give his side a slim 12-10 lead.
The Panthers went back-to-back with Harawira-Naera finishing some clever backline play before converting his own try to edge his side out to an 18-10 lead with nine minutes remaining in the half.
The Titans finished the half in style with some ad-lib play resulting in Cartwright crossing in the corner just before the half-time buzzer to reel the deficit back to 18-14 going into the break.
But the Titans’ second half started poorly with an error from the opening set resulting in the Panthers extending their lead through winger Fuimanu Enise who crossed in the corner to give his side a 22-14 lead.
The Panthers went back-to-back after centre Christian Crichton forced his way through three would-be Titans before getting a pass away to Enise to score his second try of the afternoon and extend the Panthers lead out to 26-14 with 35minutes remaining.
After composing after their error-riddled start to the half, the Titans patience produced points in the 55th minute with Cartwright scoring after receiving a clever cut-out pass from Daniel Schwass to score before converting his own try reel the deficit back to 26-20.
With the possession in their favour, the Titans looked dangerous on the attack and some great team play down the blind-side resulted in utility Daniel Schwass crossing in the corner. With Cartwright’s conversion sailing wide the Titans trailed 26-24 with 20 minutes remaining in the half.
The Panthers followed some great defensive work on their line with some crafty attacking play leading to centre Maliko Filino barging his way across the line from dummy-half to score in the 71st minute. The Titans used their ‘captain’s challenge’ in an attempt to overrule the decision but were denied by the video-referee who ruled with the on-field decision, taking the Panthers to a 30-24 lead going into the final eight minutes of play.
The Panthers put the match beyond doubt in the 75th minute when prop Moses Leota steamrolled his way under the posts to give Harrawira-Naera an easy conversion to edge the away-side to the eventual 36-24 victory.
The Titans will look to hit-back next week when they take on the New Zealand Warriors.
Penrith Panthers 36 (F Enise 2, S Albert, T May, C Harawira-Naera, M Filino, M Leota tries; C Harawira-Naera 4 goals) defeated Gold Coast Titans 24(J Cartwright 2, R Humphreys, O Tuiasau, D Schwass tries; J Cartwright 2 goals).