The Gold Coast Titans registered their first win for the 2019 season with a hard-fought 30-24 win over the Penrith Panthers at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday night.
The Titans were under immense pressure coming into the contest and put on one of their bravest performances of the year to come away with the win and receive a rousing applause from the 8,680 strong home-crowd.
We’ve dissected the win and highlighted six key features of the match which helped guide the side to the win:
1) Flash Gordon – The pre-game endorsements were flowing for Michael Gordon in his 250th match with a dedicated celebration featuring well-wishes from coach Garth Brennan, Panthers supremo Phil Gould, Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary and the Eels Clint Gutherson and Tim Mannah. The journey-man who has made himself at home in the Titans fullback position for the past two seasons, displayed all the attributes mentioned in the tributes and was outstanding as he knocked up 14-points in his milestone match with a try and five goals. It was a tough start for Gordon, putting down a Maloney bomb before copping a shot across the jaw which produced some claret. The ever-reliable fullback bounced back and turned the momentum in the Titans favour when he caught the Panthers napping with a clever quick-tap. Gordon charged up-field putting the team on the attack where they managed to cross for their second-try of the night through winger Anthony Don. The fullback went one-better in the 36th minute crossing for a try of his owns much to the delight of his family and friends who had travelled up the Coast for the milestone.
2) Is Don is Good – The Titans leading try-scorer added to his tally in superb aerial-fashion by reeling in a cross-field Tyrone Roberts kick to register his 70th career-try. In addition to scoring tries, the Grafton Ghosts junior displayed another talent and forced a drop-out with a pin-perfect grubber in the dying minutes of the first-half. On-the-back of repeat-set, the Titans continued to mount pressure and were rewarded for their efforts crossing for a late try to go into the half-time break with an 18-12 lead. Don was his consistent best bringing the ball back from deep inside his own half with 12 runs and defusing bombs from the incumbent NSW Halves James Maloney and Nathan Cleary with ease.
3) Completion Rates – In the early rounds, the Titans have failed to hold onto the ball and had one of the lowest completion rates in the competition. They went back-to-basics in the first-half and were rewarded for respecting the ball with an 80% completion rate which earnt the side 57% of possession. The side managed to take advantage of the high completion rate and looked slick inside the red-zone as they crossed for three tries. The short-kicking game was also on-point with the side forcing three goal-line drop outs in a controlled performance. The Titans discipline continued into the second-half and the ended the match completing 31 of 37 sets at a rate of 84% which would be sure to please coach Brennan.
4) Former Panthers – With Coach Garth Brennan learning his trade at the Panthers along with Tyrone Peachey, Bryce Cartwright, Mitch Rein and Michael Gordon all spending time playing at the foot of the mountains, there was bound to be some friendly fire out there and it all boiled over in the 55th minute. With Dallin Watene-Zelezniak bringing the ball back on a kick-return, the Titans kick-chase met him with a big-hit from Jarrod Wallace but the referee ruled a shoulder-charge. Watene-Zelezniak and the Panthers took offence to the tackle and former team-mates clashed in a modern-day melee. The Titans quartet were sparked by this and produced their best performances of the year with Cartwright crossing for a try, Rein setting one up and Gordon and Peachey heavily involved throughout the contest.
5) Turning point – With scores locked-up at 24-all the Titans turned up the heat in defence and managed to keep the Panthers deep inside their red-zone. With the momentum and field position swinging in their favour, the Titans mounted a great attacking raid in the 68th minute with Dale Copley racing down the edge before putting in a chip-kick. In the race to the ball, Cartwright appeared to be impeded in his attempt to ground it and the referee sent the play to the bunker for further review. In the bunker, Jared Maxwell ruled Panthers player Tyrell Fuimaono deliberately knocked Cartwright off the ball and awarded the penalty try. With the kick moved in-front of the posts, Gordon made easy work of it to give his side a six-point lead, which they held onto until the full-time buzzer to secure their first-win of the season.
6) Three Halves – The Titans halves have been forced into multiple reshuffles throughout the season with injuries keeping Ash Taylor and Tyrone Roberts out until last week. With the week under their belt, Roberts and Taylor combined well early to score the side’s first points in the 18th minute with Taylor dribbling in a deft grubber for Roberts to ground. Unfortunately, Taylor suffered a lower-leg injury in the opening set of the half and despite trying to play on was forced to succumb to the injury in the 28th minute. Youngster AJ Brimson replaced Taylor from the interchange bench and the dynamo worked well with Roberts to coordinate the side around the field as well as producing some pieces of individual brilliance to keep the Panthers defence on their toes. The Titans will wait to see how Taylor pulls up in the week ahead to see if he will be available to take on the Newcastle Knights next Sunday but if unavailable, Brimson has proven himself to be a formable replacement.