New recruit Jarryd Hayne has booted a field goal with just seconds remaining to keep the Aquis Titans’ finals hopes alive in a 19-18 thriller against Wests Tigers.
Needing a win to keep touch with the NRL top eight, Gold Coast rediscovered its defensive grit and absorbed the pressure in the dying moments of a game that looked like going into golden point territory.
Gold Coast was on the front foot with 20 minutes remaining when it led the home side 18-10 in front of 16,783 people at Campbelltown Stadium.
Halves Ashley Taylor and Jarryd Hayne had been brilliant but they could not have been so potent without such a strong platform laid by forwards Greg Bird, Luke Douglas and David Shillington.
High drama followed as the Tigers fought back to level the scores.
Inside the last 10 minutes, Tigers playmaker Mitchell Moses missed with a penalty goal and field goal attempts, while Taylor also miscued two shots that would have broken the tension.
Then, with just seconds remaining, Hayne showed amazing poise to land the one-pointer from about 35m out and deliver the win to his new club.
A try conceded in the first minute and some skewed goalkicking were the only blips for the Titans in a mightily impressive opening half.
In a match played under semi-finals pressure and intensity, Gold Coast had to absorb plenty of attack from the Tigers.
After the first minute they hardly looked like cracking as the visitors muscled-up on the goal line.
Having repelled the threat, Titans halves Taylor and Hayne went to work picking apart the Tigers’ defence.
Hayne played a leading role in Anthony Don’s two first-half tries, firstly with an intercept and dash downfield, then a beautifully placed bomb that soared towards the corner before landing in the winger’s outstretched arms.
Not to be outdone, Taylor rolled a perfectly weighted grubber pounced on in the Tigers in-goal by Josh Hoffman.
The Titans led 12-10 at halftime but it could have been a greater margin had Taylor and Greg Bird been more accurate with their shots at goal.
Gold Coast looked in charge early in the second half, with only poor ball control preventing them exerting more pressure on their hosts.
Still they continued to dull the impact of one of the competition’s most lethal runners, James Tedesco.
For the first 50 minutes the Titans had managed to cool the Tigers fullback who was a matchwinner the previous round against North Queensland.
Both wingers had been outstanding for the Titans, and it was Nene Macdonald who landed a heavy blow on the Tigers when he grabbed an intercept and raced 90m to help extend the lead to eight points in the 54th minute.
Despite losing Tedesco to an injury, the Tigers refused to yield and threw everything they had at the visitors.
Two late tries to David Nofoaluma gave the Tigers a sniff but Taylor and Hayne made all the right decisions in the last 10 minutes to squeeze home by the narrowest of margins.
AQUIS TITANS 19 (Anthony Don 2, Josh Hoffman, Nene Macdonald tries; Ashley Taylor goal, Jarryd Hayne field goal) d WESTS TIGERS 18 (David Nofoaluma 2, Kevin Naiqama tries; Mitchell Moses 3 goals) at Campbelltown Stadium