The Gold Coast’s season has roared to life, with the Titans producing a massively impressive display to beat Penrith 30-24 at Cbus Super Stadium.
While it would be obvious to say it was the Titans’ best performance of the season, being their first win, the manner in which they did it and the quality of the football they played would have delighted impatient Gold Coast supporters.
The Titans were brilliant at times in attack, and showed renewed ruthlessness in defence in a game that carried a lot of feeling and featured a couple of flare-ups between the players.
They also had to do it with halfback Ash Taylor missing for most of the match, hobbling off with injury before halftime.
Ultimately, it was a penalty try to Bryce Cartwright that proved the difference, with both he and winger Dale Copley taken off the ball by Penrith defenders as they chased the pill into the in-goal.
In his 250th NRL game, fullback Michael Gordon scored the try of the match – a razzle-dazzle bell-ringer from the Titans that saw the ball swung from one sideline to the other four minutes before halftime.
He also and enjoyed a super night with his kicking boot, landing five from five.
Fittingly, Gordon not only brought up his 250th club against the club with whom he made his NRL debut in Penrith, but he was able to do it while wearing the socks of his junior club the Tweed Coast Raiders.
Gordon’s milestone match coincided with the “Titans Back to Juniors” round, where every player wears the socks of their junior club to recognise the importance of grassroots footy, and to promote junior rugby league sign-ons.
The lime green of Gordon’s junior club was also represented in the stands, with 400 family and friends making the trip north to watch his milestone match.
They may have paid to see their boy Gordon, but they got the Titans’ best performance of the season thrown in for free, with the Gold Coast showing great character to continually pick themselves off the canvas and swallow some tough calls against them to produce a terrific performance fans had been waiting for.
A barnstorming try to prop Jarrod Wallace, who had a mighty game, in the 51st minute levelled the scores for the fourth time in the game at 24-all, setting the scene for Cartwright’s try to get the Titans home.
The Titans were desperate for a win after a luckless start to the season.
That luck looked worse still when prop Shannon Boyd withdrew with injury the day before the game, and Penrith five-eighth James Maloney strolled through a yawning gap to score in the seventh minute.
But if proof was ever needed that confidence is like gold in the NRL, then the Titans’ response to Maloney’s try was it.
Working their way into good field position to start building some pressure, the Titans scored a try of their own when Maloney butchered the clean-up job on an Ash Taylor grubber under his own posts, allowing Tyrone Roberts to clean up and get the Titans on the board at 6-6.
Soon after, Gordon caught the Panthers napping with a quick tap from a penalty, turning back the clock as he hared downfield and to put his team on the attack.
Roberts again obliged, this time laying on a deft kick to the corner for Anthony Don – who still had a mountain of work to do – to cross the stripe to give the Titans a 12-6 lead.
Penrith drew level again at 12-all when Villiame Kikau scored a soft try in the 27th minute, but the Titans didn’t drop their heads.
Without the errors that had cruelled them in the first few weeks of the season, the Titans delivered on their promise – producing some enterprising and entertaining football to keep Penrith on the back foot.
Gordon’s try in the 36th minute was a cracker, with impressive centre Brian Kelly starting an attacking raid from nothing but determined running and a good off-load, sparking the Titans attack that culminated in Kevin Proctor – in his best game of the year – delivering a classy pill to put Gordon over and give the Titans an 18-12 halftime lead.
Again the Panthers closed the gap, this time through James Fisher-Harris just two minutes after the break, squaring it up at 18-all.
AJ Brimson looked like he had kicked the Titans clear again with a breath-taking 50m run, but he was called back by the referees for an obstruction.
It was a crucial decision, and a wrong one, and one that was a potentially 12-point turnaround, with the Panthers scoring from the ensuing penalty to regain the lead at 24-18 in the 49th minute. But the on-field referees refused to use the video to check their decision.
GOLD COAST TITANS 30 (Tyrone Roberts, Anthony Don, Michael Gordon, Jarrod Wallace, Bryce Cartwright (penalty) tries; Gordon 5 goals) d PENRITH PANTHERS 24 (James Maloney, Villiame Kikau, James Fisher-Harris, Josh Mansour tries; Nathan Cleary 4 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium, Robina. Crowd: 8680