The TFH Gold Coast Titans have suffered a heart-breaking 17-16 Golden Point loss to the Penrith Panthers at Cbus Super Stadium this afternoon.
In a scrappy affair with both sides completing under 75%, it was the Titans who managed to break the 6-all half-time deadlock and race away to a 16-6 lead with 20 minutes remaining through tries to wingers Phillip Sami and Anthony Don.
But in typical Panthers fashion, the visitors finished the match strongly with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak scoring in the final minute of play to lock the scores up at 16-all.
Panthers halfback, Nathan Cleary had a conversion attempt after the siren to give the Panthers the win but he pushed the kick wide forcing the game into Golden Point.
The Panthers completed their miracle comeback in the 84th minute with Cleary's second field-goal attempt sailing over the crossbar to give his side the 17-16 win.
It was the Titans who opened the scoring in the third minute through skipper Ryan James who ran a tough line to carry three Panthers players over the line before stretching out to score under the posts. With Michael Gordon out injured, Ash Taylor assumed the goal-kicking duties and made light work of his first effort from in-front to give the Titans a 6-0 lead.
The Panthers looked to have hit-back in the eighth minute after Dean Whare made a bust down the right edge but AJ Brimson pulled off a beautiful one-on-one tackle to bring the centre down before racing 50 metres across field in the next play-the-ball to produce another try saver, this time holding Waqa Blake up over the line.
But there was no stopping the Panthers in the 14th minute with Reagan Campbell-Gillard putting Nathan Cleary into a gap before supporting to reel in the offload and race 30 metres downfield before the prop-forward offloaded to Blake to score in the corner. Cleary converted to level the scores up at 6-all.
The Titans looked to have broken the dead-lock in the 24th minute when Nathan Peats darted over from dummy-half but the bunker ruled he knocked the ball on following Tyrone Peachey's strip and over-turned the on-field decision of try.
The Panthers lost firebrand Jack Hetherington to the sin-bin in the 35th minute after the utility forward put a high, swinging shot on Brimson who was cleaning up an error.
Despite having the extra man, the Titans were unable to capitalise and were forced to go into the half-time break with scores locked up at 6-all.
The Panthers compounded an error from their opening second-half set with a penalty to gift the Titans attacking position and they took full advantage with a swift backline play resulted in an overlap for Kane Elgey to draw-and-pass and put Sami over in the corner. With Taylor unable to add the extras, the Titans lead remained at 10-6 after 45 minutes.
It took another Brimson try-saver to deny the Panthers in the 50th minute with the stand-in fullback producing another big-hit force Blake into touch.
The Titans extended their lead in to the 60th minute with Don intercepting a James Maloney pass to race 90 metres down-field and score. With Elgey adding the extras the Titans led 16-6 going into the final 20 minutes.
But the Panthers started their comeback efforts in the 76th minute with Dean Whare busting through a would-be Elgey tackle before getting a pass away for Cleary to score next to the posts. With Cleary converting, the Panthers reduced the deficit back to 16-12 with four minutes remaining.
With under a minute remaining on the clock, the Panthers managed to lock the contest up with Viliame Kikau making a bust up the Titans edge before passing to Watene-Zelezniak to score out wide. With Cleary unable to convert the match was sent into Golden Point.
The Panthers had the first field-goal attempt in the first-half of Golden Point with Cleary having a shot from 40 metres out but it fell just short going under the crossbar but managed to stay in the field of play.
The Titans then had a crack through Taylor from 35 metres out but it went wide and dead gifting the Panthers a seven-tackle set.
On the back of this, the Panthers barged their way up the field and there was no denying Cleary this time with the halfback slotting the winning kick in the final 50 seconds of the half to take the 17-16 win.
The Titans will look to hit-back when they take on the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles at Lottoland on Friday night.
Penrith Panthers 17 (W Blake, N Cleary, D Watene-Zelezniak tries; N Cleary 2 goals; N Cleary 1 field-goal) defeated Gold Coast Titans 16 (R James, P Sami, A Don tries; A Taylor 1, K Elgey 1 goal)